Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Good deeds...?

"What better place than here? What better time than now?"

That's precisely what I thought when I decided to do a good deed. And that good deed would be charity... helping the needy. Giving food to people who might be struggling to fill their bellies throughout the day. Being compassionate about those who are less fortunate and might even not have a shelter to cover themselves from rain. What can be more self rewarding than the feeling of having helped someone who needed it?

With that in mind, while walking through the aisles of a grocery store, I decided to buy two food items, some snacks. But one would be for myself, and the other one would be for a needy person. So I did. I paid for them and placed one of the snacks in the inner pocket of my coat, while I just walked out and had my snack.

It didn't take me too long to find a candidate to be recipient of my spare snack. Two blocks away from the grocery store, I found a man in his 40's (I think), not extremely bad dressed but not very tidied up indeed, asking for spare change. And right across the street... another guy, this one in his early 30's and more or less in the same physical condition, doing the same. Some 20 meters ahead, a third individual with a wildly grown white beard, worn out clothes, and probably in his 50's. Some older, some younger... but all of them in need.

Having this scenario, I entered a dilemma: Under what grounds does one decide to give food to one homeless person, but not the other one across the street? How to choose who needs it more? Should I just stand and observe which one receives coins less often than their counterparts? Or maybe we should just be able to tell by their physical aspect? Is that a reliable indicator? Is the old one always more in need than the young one? Oh well. I came up with so many questions, and with so little answers.

Determining what person was in more need was not the only issue. Think about this: how correct is it to give food to one homeless person, while just telling the others that I don't have any spare change? That is quite a tough scenario, especially if those others witnessed how you handed food to a needy guy, just like themselves. Is it more correct (or ethical, if you like) to not give anything to anybody under those conditions? How could I look those people in the eyes and tell them "sorry, I don't have anything to help you with"...?

I ended up giving the spare snack to some needy woman a few blocks further away. She was in her 50's, lacked her front teeth and appeared hungry. But let's face it, she was probably not the only hungry one there. Strangely, I thought that I'd feel alright by giving food to a needy person. But after accomplishing my good deed, the sentiment of fulfillment was not as powerful as I expected. It was very far from that. Not that I felt miserable either, but I could not avoid thinking whether she was indeed the correct choice... and all my questions just kept bouncing all around my head as I kept walking on the streets, finding panhandlers literally in every corner.

Moreover, these thoughts can be extrapolated to so many levels...


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