Beggars can’t be choosers, but humans have to be. It’s my uninformed opinion that the mental wellness of an individual is directly correlated to the amount of control that individual has in his or her own life. Being rich and trapped is worse than being poor and free. Sure, some may disagree and none of this empirical. I’m merely observing.
The issue of begging and choosing came up back when I was in Montana. My father is a pastor and spends a great deal of his time helping, or trying to help, others. While Marissa and I were there, one particular hard-luck case came to him. This man has a wife / live-in girlfriend (I’m not sure which) and a child with Addison’s disease. They approached my father in need of help after their house burned down.
They’re now living in a small apartment above someone’s house. It’s tiny and in bad shape. We stopped by to deliver some groceries and a Christmas tree. It took about 15 minutes, but while we were there the man lied to us no less than 3 times. Each lie concerned a large pitbull puppy he owned. He told us it was a licensed service animal, that it was medically necessary for his son, and that it was trained in a ridiculous number of interesting tasks.
None of that is true or even likely. But what is extremely likely is that he wants a dog, he loves that dog, and he feels that he must justify it to those who help him. After all, a big dog is expensive to maintain and when you have so little…
But I don’t care that I’m also paying for him to have a dog. I couldn’t ask someone to give up a pet so they could receive help. I couldn’t even ask someone to give up the idea of a dog.
In short, I couldn’t ask someone to give up being human to be a beggar. Ideally, no human would need to beg but this isn’t an ideal world so we have to take it as it comes.
I remember reading an interview sometime ago with a volunteer at a small soup kitchen / food pantry. When he first started there they put him behind the line serving split peas. Now, most people didn’t take the green mush despite it’s obvious nutritional benefits. The volunteer recalled that some were downright rude to him. Sure there were plenty of “No thank yous” but there were also some “Psht, nos.” When he asked the director of the kitchen about it he told him there were two reasons for them serving split peas. Number one, people donate split peas because they aren’t going to eat them either, and number two, saying no to something makes people feel better about their lives.
I’m okay with giving more than the minimum so that people can have lives where they don’t have to eat split peas if they don’t want to and they can have a dog.