The moral web.
Do we deal with poverty only when a beggar approaches us in a public place, or approaches us when our family and or friends are around us?
How many of us carry loose change, or biscuits, before we leave home, or keep loose change in our car, with intention to give it away as and when we will encounter the pitiful face of poverty at the railway station or traffic signal? I have no clue.
I have never carried anything like that to give away. Sometimes I carried old clothes to give away, but never anything ‘new’ or cash.
When I was a kid, I gave alms, because I feared the wrath of God.
Later, as a youth, I gave because I thought it will earn me good karma in next birth.
Much later, in my 40’s, I gave thinking, what goes around comes around in this birth, so I will certainly benefit sooner or later.
Now, I rarely give alms.
And if I do, or if I am instrumental in others doing charity, for example #BicycleAngels we founded together, it is not to earn karma for myself. If I did that it would, for me, amount to a selfish kind of charity I am doing to benefit from. Though I see no harm if anyone else does charity for a seat in Heaven or for benefits in this or a next birth, or even to just ‘feel good.’ For whatever reason you may do charity, its all good man.
Because eventually your deed will lift someone. Anyways, there are acts we perform daily for selfish reasons. If you do charity for selfish reasons, it’s all good man.
Since a few years now, most often I have believed that I should not give cash to beggars. Maybe that is how Bicycle Angels seed got sowed. Maybe. I have very often turned my back from a beggar, looked away, or rolled up my window to block their pleas.
In fact, I never think of them, beggars, unless I see them on the streets or read related news. Then, only then, my mind ticks for them. Yet, I have often not given them alms. Somehow, I preferred to help ‘working’ people, or the old and physically unable. I may be wrong, in my beliefs, but I am willing to learn my lessons and not asking anyone to pay for these life lessons.
Sometimes, when a beggar has approached me when I am eating, most often I have given alms. I think I did that because I felt blessed, or felt guilty of being blessed, or then my tummy was so full of food, kind of bursting with over eating, that I relented with either the food or then with cash. Sometimes, I even feel I am being ‘confronted’ by a beggar with an attitude – “Come one, you can’t eat that all by yourself, ya, can you? Or, Come on, I know you can spare change for me. You have so much, I can see it in your clothes and your car.” Yet, most often I never gave in to them. I rolled up my window.
However, almost every time I did that I found myself in a moral web. But then even when I have given them alms I found myself in a moral web wondering if I encouraged ‘begging’. Maybe I am foolish, because I feel now no one ‘likes’ to beg. It is humiliating I think, and dehumanises the person. Poverty can dehumanise us.
So, I came up with a kind of solution. Kela. Banana.
Sometimes, I keep one handy when I travel by car. Which is often. The days I remember to and have some at home. I am not perfect, I often forget. Sometimes, I buy two en route. For some odd reason, I find it easier to give a banana than give cash, even if the money I offer is of equal value to one banana, which costs Rupees five in a suburb like Bandra west today.
Now, I think this is not my confession alone. It is of someone typically me, living in a mega metropolitan city like Mumbai or maybe one in Africa or the Western hemisphere. I thought of this only lately, inspired by #Nerdwriter1. He made me ponder on my own moral web of giving or not giving alms to a beggar.
#Morality. Is it morally right to give alms? It can be argued until death, like politics and religion, with no solution that all will agree to. No one can answer that for another. I think, morality is about what things ‘ought’ to be, and not about how things ‘should’ be. Like a ‘general’ mode of conduct, and not a specific rule.
Statutory warning: Your morality is not the only morality in the world! Each one of us ought to decide our own morality. And not judge that of another. (Same for your religion.)
Image: Woody Allen. One of my favorite directors’. 🙂