Beggars

hqdefaultBeggars Can’t Be Choosers

If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride.

If wishes were fishes, then beggars would dine.

Give a man a fish, and he has one meal.

Teach a man to fish, and he dines for life.

Sometimes people ask: What would Jesus do? There are many instances where he advocated giving to the poor. What about where he took the loaves and fishes and somehow fed the multitudes? Of course, when you ask what would Jesus do, you have to ask WWJD and add the caveat: if he couldn’t walk on water, turn water into wine, perform miracles, bring the dead back to life? (What if God were one of us? Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home?)

At first he refused to heal the Samaritan woman’s son, saying, to paraphrase The Lord: I ain’t no veterinarian.

But she replied: Even the dogs get scraps from the master’s table.

Touché! Well played, Samaritan woman. This riposte earned her one free healing. This little incident begs the question: Was Jesus racist? And furthermore, was Jesus God at this point, or did he become God later? Because if he was God, then that would mean that God is racist. But if he was becoming God, or one third of the Trinity (The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost) then that would explain why he wasn’t perfect and made a mistake, reacting in a racist manner to the Samaritan woman, but on further reflection . . .

Don’t get me started on God being racist, because there are lots of times when he commanded the Israelites to kill their enemies and show no mercy. In the Old Testament. Not going to kick that hornets’ nest.

You know (or maybe you haven’t an inkling, but that’s just how I talk, being from California), I am not really sure what is meant by “begging the question.” It is an expression I have heard, and I think I know what it means, but if beggars can’t be choosers, can they choose the question they are begging? Or can they choose the answer to the question? One time I asked a friend much wiser than me what the phrase meant, but the answer he gave me was beyond my pay rate.

Anyway, getting back on track, I am examining the homily: Beggars Can’t Be Choosers. But why can’t beggars be choosers? Of course, there are problems when trying to administer charity. Let’s say a beggar is an alcoholic or a drug addict? In that case, beggars should not be choosers. Of course, if you give them money they will just run around the corner and give it to the pusher or liquor store, and choose what they wanted in the first place. Just give them crack or hootch. Eliminate the middleman. Buy it in bulk.

Charity was a problem even in the early days of the church, with Paul and his congregation talking about charity for widows, but only legitimate widows. I guess fake widows would be a euphemism for prostitutes, or women who were never actually married? Like Blanche DuBois, they depended on the kindness of strangers? Or what’s the capital of Rhode Island? Providence.

Charity begins at home, but what if the beggar is homeless? Or what if he isn’t homeless, or even impoverished, but has only found it lucrative to pretend to be so? In San Francisco there were often beggars who had crafted a great cover story–for instance, one guy would claim that he was a basketball player, and had been picked to play on a pro team, if he could only get enough money to get to spring training. Or winter training. Or autumn training. Or summer training. This guy was a man for all seasons. Tourists would fall for his story, but locals would see him out there day after day. He drove a Lexus.

Will Work for Food

Have you ever tried offering someone with this type of sign a job? They invariably refuse, as they will actually make more money just begging. But the fact that they claim to be willing to work makes some people willing to help them.

All right, so then, it isn’t so easy to be charitable. But what about the person who is down on their luck, but who has a plan, to pull themselves up, if not by their own bootstraps, then at least by a bootstrap? Lend me a bootstrap? Why can’t a beggar choose their own bootstrap? Let’s say he doesn’t want to learn to fish, but would prefer to cut bait? Let’s say his ambition is to become a master of the craft? A Master Baiter?

Therefore, I am begging you to let me choose when you give me something. I have a plan to get off the dole and get a job. I know what I need to execute that plan. Don’t give me a fish, fan mail from a flounder, or teach me to fish. I beg of you: Just give me cash.

2 comments on “Beggars

  1. “Have you ever tried offering someone with this type of sign a job?”

    If you have, Chris, I’d like to hear the story instead of this grab bag of non sequiturs and lame and/or obscure jokes.

    But then, I tend to be serious most of the time. Go ahead and be yourself. We’ll still like you.

    Now, about Cheese 1-3?

    Alan

    • I didn’t really have a job to offer, but it is well documented that people with this type of sign, i.e., “Will Work for Food,” are being disingenuous. I have seen panhandlers in San Francisco use the same sob story day after day, and I have been taken in by them. Their alibis seem water tight, and you’re tempted to play the Good Samaritan, but then on further reflection, the next day, after donating, the logic of it breaks down and you realize that you’ve been played for a sucker. The Flim Flam Man, a character in a movie portrayed on screen by George C. Scott, on the contrary, always uses your greed against you. You think you are getting over. Like the Nigerian Prince who just needs you to deposit a small amount into a bank account so he can transfer his millions. This sort of scam doesn’t work on the honest person. The one I have encountered however is where they take advantage of your altruism. YMMV (your mileage may vary). This kind of scam, that targets philanthropy rather than greed, is exemplified by W.C. Fields where he says, “Never give a sucker an even break.” However, while disparaging these kinds of beggars and grifters, I am actually arguing that sometimes the beggar is sincere, and deserves a choice. I ask the rhetorical question: “Why can’t beggars be choosers?”

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