Why Can’t Beggars Be Choosers?

To be clear, I don’t consider myself homeless. Yes, I’m a digital nomad, don’t know where exactly I’d call home, don’t own anything larger than can fit in my bag, and am riding the poverty line like a mechanic bull, but I don’t consider myself homeless. I’m a digital nomad.

The world is my home. So right now I’m just exploring the other rooms to see what my roommates have done with the place. I don’t have much but what I do have is outweighed by my hope that my home can be an open house filled with friends that care for friends of friends of friends of Kevin Bacon.

So as I was been walking, taking photos, what cash I’ve had, I’ve given to the homeless. There hasn’t been many, at least not until I got to the Phoenix metro area, so when I finally ran into someone with a sign that read, “hungry,” I’ll be the first to admit that I was judgemental.

America creates a lot of food waste. I’m vegan. There’s better places to post-up for change.

All these things swirled in my mind, until I stopped them and took a good inventory of them. It also helped that I watched a young couple of color not only go up to the man and eventually take him out for lunch, but they spent a good amount of time with him.

This made me stop and reflect deeper. I’ll admit, I was ashamed that I had thought about someone else’s position from the standpoint of my own. This person doesn’t have to be vegan, although I believe it’s a healthier and more spiritually enlightening diet. Maybe he was allergic! Maybe he didn’t want to be that guy digging through the freegan section for a half eaten burger. I mean, really Brienna. I was hoping to make up for those thoughts with what change I had left when that nice couple took the man away. Now I had no way to atone for the thoughts that stopped me from helping that man.

With another mile behind me, I came across an older man of color, a veteran, in a wheelchair. Hallelujah, I could repent! I gave him my change intended for the previous man and felt better, but not completely.

I walked another mile. By the freeway stood a man beat red from the sun with only a sign and a bag. I had no change now. I was begging for another way to help this man on the side of the freeway.

I had water.

“Would you like a water?”

The man seemed surprised. Too often people can’t stomach the effort to dig a little deeper in their wallets for change. How many of them had water and didn’t even offer him such a vital resource. The eagerness of his nodding was the answer.

Finally, I had really felt a sense of atonement. It made me question what it meant to help other people. Perhaps I could have asked the Hungry Man if he knew how to fast. Perhaps I could have taught him something that would have helped him. Or perhaps he was as thirsty as the Thirsty Man.

So why can’t beggars be choosers? Because helpers need to be better askers. Asking how you can help someone is far better than imposing your version of helping onto others. If I could go back in time, I would have walked up to that man and asked, do you like Taco Bell? I would’ve found a way for us to split a vegan plate of nachos, loaded with protein.

Why can’t beggars be choosers? When I’m walking and people read me as a homeless person, they offer me things. Beggars must be choosers. I wouldn’t accept a ride from a single male or group of men. I wouldn’t take up space at a soup kitchen or other service that belongs to someone in need. I wouldn’t accept a plate of meat from someone because I’m hungry. I wouldn’t spend the night with a stranger. And I certainly am not interested in giving you head or an old fashioned.

Choice is important. Choice, even though we can’t always control where it comes from or know the causality that brings us the option, is freedom. To say that “beggars can’t be choosers” is to say that along with not having much in the way of possessions, wealth, or food, that someone in such a position should have no freedom as well.

Coming to that conclusion gave me pause. Who would want to take someone else’s freedom away? Surely there’s a minority of people with their own predelictions to this end but I have hope that the 99%, the great majority of not only Americans, but the world, feels this way.

At least that’s the sense I get. Education, culture, tradition, etc., aside; does this seem true to you too?

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