BEGGARS, SALVATION & THE STRANGLED EMPATHY

kkkIt’s on a Friday, 6:30 in the evening and I have just walked out of a barbershop heading home. I meet a woman on a wheelchair being aided by a man and they look shabbily dressed. The woman is holding a small tin with dozens of coins, actually it’s almost full. They wave at me to catch my attention. I ignore them initially but think twice almost immediately, only to make a retreat, get a few coins from my pocket and drop them at the tin with a fake smile.

This would later be the action that haunted me for the rest of the night. Sometimes back, I had made a quiet resolution that thou shall never give money to a typical beggar. My bothered mind was wondering what happened? How did I give in? How did they manage to arm-twist and disarm me so effortlessly? I have watched numerous news items on how beggars in Kenya operate cartels big time, how they make tens of thousands in a day; how they brood and sprout to overnight millionaires at the very glare of our face. What magic do they use to defile our intelligence? For the better part of the night, I was stuck in that thought and shuttered. I shudder to imagine how every night some people laugh their way to the back, reminiscing how the day was money-wise; how they abuse our gullibility day in day out.

It’s an open secret that thousands of disabled men, women and kids are smuggled into the country from Tanzania and other neighbouring countries. Why Kenya is a destination of choice for human traffickers is due to the ‘generosity and general gullibility’ of Kenyans. Thanks to our porous borders, and money craving border officials, it becomes easy for these villains to go about their businesses unperturbed, compromising security personnel almost at will. In Nanyuki , a relatively small town where I work, there is an influx of street beggars, inventing new tricks and swapping streets every day. They are so organized that at designated hours, for instance, lunch time, a random guy will appear and drop them some packed meals. Whenever it rains, an accomplice will sneak in an umbrella and disappear in the thin air.

Awhile back, a guy walking ahead of me happened to drop some coins to a beggar and went ahead to give me a suggestive look meaning I should have taken cue too. I got into loggerheads with him after he barked at me for not being philanthropic enough like him. He went ahead to give me free advice, about how noble it is to give something small to maskini wa mungu. My instincts told me this was just but an accomplice doing PR to a fellow partner in crime. This week, I met an elderly man with a tattered old booklet, with quite a number of names and signatures penned on it.  Just because he was limping, made him imagine he was qualified to be beggar and that he had unanimous permission to connive and swindle hardworking Kenyans to donate some few cash. He in fact tried to compel me, to part with something small, not to mention his never ending tales and ultimatums. What followed was distraught on my face, wondering how daring these day light swindlers can be.

Three months ago, an erstwhile good friend of mine whom I had not met for several years, called me. After the usual preambles prodding on life and pummeling me with questions on relationships and job matters, the conversation was interrupted by an awkward silence. She needed money to support her in a church mission that would take her one year away from home, family and friends. In fact she wasn’t in a position to work for the entire period, meaning her life would automatically depend on the generosity of others. She was supposed to raise at least sh.20,000 every month and forward it to the church leaders just like her church colleagues and leave it to their discretion, to manage it. The said lady whose name I have withheld for prudence purpose is a beautiful, young graduate, full of life. For a moment, I was sad for her, for no apparent reason.

I didn’t know how to react or what to say. At the end of the conversation I was naturally left with so many questions. How do some churches expect one to survive for an entire year without working, in the name of advocating the gospel?  I’m not opposed to church programs whose goal is to convert non-believers out there to believers, in any case I’m an active supporter of church projects. But more fundamentally, I’m a shrewd realist.

We must, as a society draw the line between extreme -solicit and generosity. It’s wrong for a section of the society, church included, to push the envelope too far and to ride on our kindness. I hate the mere thought of laziness and its advocators. These are my thoughts, no offence intended.

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2 thoughts on “BEGGARS, SALVATION & THE STRANGLED EMPATHY

  1. You have to let the guys be. The fact is they are just surviving the best way they know how. If that’s their thing it’s okay they haven’t broken the law.

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