Begging (is) the Question

I find beggars disconcerting.

I’m not sure why, but there’s something about the sight of another human begging that just feels wrong.

Sometimes it’s a young mother in dirty clothes, baby on her back, two other kids in her wake.

Or it’s a man old enough to be your father, dressed in old clothes and bent over like a streetlamp, but with no light in his eyes. If he’s in your area (or on your route), both of you may actually have watched each other grow older.

You might (at least here in Lagos) run into the fair, curly-haired kids who tug at your sleeves in bus parks and markets while they singsong in broken English.

There are the white-haired men and ancient women who line the sidewalks (seeking some sort of solidarity, perhaps?), their begging bowls in a long row. They are almost always seated, and you wonder if they can even stand.

And there are the more gory ones, with missing limbs and diseased body parts, wearing bandages so dirty you wonder what purpose they could possibly serve…

I’ve judged them before, readymade judgements I thoughtlessly picked up from others. They’re just being lazy. They should find work. How dare they expose their children like that? How bad can it get that they should feel they have to beg! Slowly (and to my shame), I learned not to see them.

When I do see them, though, I become aware of an inner disconcertion. And the questions rise that have no answers, or at least none that satisfy. Who are they, and what’s their story? How did they come to be there? How does a person come to feel they have no choice but to give up their claim to human dignity?

And I realise it is really those questions I’d rather not notice.

What bothers you about beggars?

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2 thoughts on “Begging (is) the Question

  1. Here u go again Ayo, bringing up those issues dat we shy away from or pretend are not really there..but since u hav decided 2 be our conscience…i know ‘cos i have been through many different emotions on encountering these people dat seem 2 hav lost almost all human dignity and hav tried in my little way to bring some relief no matter how small or short lasting it may be. I seriously think that constructive help should start from community leadership simply because they are d closest arm of d government to these ones.


    • You’re right, the reality that beggars present is difficult to grapple with. But we may well lose our own humanity in ignoring it… Community leadership is one place to start, I guess, but just how does that work out?


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