Keep a Coin, Give an Example

I cannot think of an author, a man, more insightful and better suited to serve as a travel companion than Thoreau.  Just yesterday—as it has happened innumerably in the past—I succumbed to the pressure cast on me by those who present themselves as poor by giving them what was in my pocket at the time.  I have repeatedly been told that such people are mummers, cunning creatures with a refined skill in provoking pity, but with the idea that even if only one in ten was sincere, it would be good to give to all ten in order to help the one, I continued to give.

Yesterday I could not resist giving soles to some girls because even until then, I held the idea that if their indigence was exaggerated with their appearance, then at least the money could be of some help.  I did not give it much thought because I was distracted by the events that followed—seldom if at all do the seemingly poor approach their target in a place conducive for contemplation.  Now it is a quiet room I am in with Thoreau who wrote, ‘be sure to give the poor they most need, though it be your example which leaves them behind.’  With this, the idea of the help I possibly provided by sparing what was in my pocket at the time suffered a fatal blow.  Indeed, I am ashamed not to have considered it until now, but it is moments like these that remind one of the paramount significance found only in reading.

My idea has been maintained by the conviction that to give a man the pecuniary means to feed himself is to help him, but, to my shame, I have never considered the effect of the example of such a practice until now.  Is a man helped when he is fed but led to believe that he may carry on begging to carry on eating?  The example implies that he need do no more with himself than inspire pity to maintain his life; to be responsible for such a destructive conviction, or at least responsible for its maintenance is to be of greater harm to my fellow beings than it would be to deny them the money they may or may not need to eat.  Alas, philosophy seldom accompanies me in those areas occupied by beggars; when I am filled with pity for one whose dirty hand extends to me, philosophy is not there to keep me from perpetuating the pathetic manner of being unscrupulously practiced by so many of their own volition

These few days have reminded me of the joy I have not known for numerous that comes from sincere friendship.  I blend in too naturally to isolation and company to hold much of a preference for either; there are advantages to both.  It is friendship similar to what I have known when I fall into a group of people not unlike myself who are not a burden as many are for being with unfortunate constitutions or simply no discernible constitution at all.  The day has been spent primarily with friends as the last few have and although I have not been so productive as I otherwise would, I am with a sense of satisfaction that justifies the momentary neglect for my work.  If it were to be with others, similar to many I have known in the past who are content to sit on a couch and gaze at a screen behind the lingering smoke of pot, I would not know this satisfaction which I am sure results from being in the company of quality people.

Yesterday, I was introduced to some reasons to make the mad fanaticism with soccer at least slightly less comprehensible since the results of games go so far as to influence the public’s opinion of their government.  That fanaticism could be taken so far is among those things that provoke wholesome laughter from every crevice of my being.  It will be a fine and memorable day when one can tell me why they prefer Barcelona to Madrid, but until then, I must be satisfied with believing it to be no more than a preference for the uniform’s color.

Today I was made to laugh louder than yesterday at being introduced to the candidates for the upcoming election—if someone were to tell me there was anything at all more comical than the American presidential race, I would have scoffed and called the claim an impossibility, but there is somehow a greater capacity for the ridiculous here.  The frontrunner, one Keiko Fujimori—it will be some time yet before I can solidify the connection in my mind between Japan and Peru to the extent that I become no longer impressed to see one who appears as only Japanese speak irreproachable Spanish—is apparently the daughter of a man once deemed the seventh most corrupt in the world.  Perhaps here, the majority believes the apple may somehow fall far from the tree, or it may just be as I was told and am ready to believe if only because what I have seen in nearly all the countries I have been to, that is that the vast majority is comprised of the misinformed.

I was told that she secured the poor (majority) by buying them—the apple simply cannot fall far from the tree so long as the laws of nature hold firm.  She is ahead, but behind, tied for second are two I did not care to learn the names of.  One is supposedly the best of the candidates for his desire to eradicate corruption embedded into the system while the other is said to belong to a group that openly supports terrorists.  The others, if my friends are to be trusted, consist of drunks, corrupted men, and imbeciles (they would have me believe that among those who have left the race is a man that can neither read nor write).  They do not have to wait so long as the Americans for the farce to come to an end since their elections are this month.  I can see Hillary Clinton and Keiko Fujimori drinking tea together and laughing over their respective victories, each one asking the other if it were not a dream and if it truly was so easy to fool and win people over; I am prepared to laugh with them.

My invaluable friend has not only taught me more about this country than I could have possibly learned without him over such a brief span of time; he has not only helped me to improve my Spanish by simply exposing me to conversations and answering all questions with great detail so that now I am able to understand most of the time, the general outline of what is said; he not only helped me to move into this hostel to spend some time where work may more easily be found, but he secured for me an opportunity to play this accordion that is almost entirely acclimated to me, at an impressive restaurant run by people who appreciate the instrument.  I cannot think of when I have last had a friend do so much for me but I certainly will never forget for I am of those men who would sooner not breathe than not reciprocate.

I have not been excited for anything in particular for a few weeks and it is refreshing to anticipate with an eager heart again.  To play in front of others is not new, but in an intimate setting where the cries of my instrument will be held in the room to move the listeners one way or another will provide for a memorable experience.  Complacence and preoccupation with the piano have diminished my fluidity with it, but the soul does not forget how to convey itself—I will not pretend that there is more to it.  I did not expect this anymore than I expected to spend some time with a man who murmured ‘weed?’ en passant, or to watch as three men ran into this hostel with the police not far behind only to be granted sanctuary from the punitive measures awaiting them just as Esmeralda did when she entered Notre Dame, to the dismay of those who demanded justice; or to enjoy some Peruvian pot as I did the first time I was introduced to the practice, by means of an apple.  If this love for Lima remains as it presently is, I will likely reside for a long time, that is of course, if God so wills it.

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4 thoughts on “Keep a Coin, Give an Example

  1. I always make a point to never give to beggars with very few exceptions. I feel like I’m just maintaining their bad lifestyle. Instead I give to charities and programs that tackle the root problems of homelessness such as substance abuse. Not to mention there are street gangs that profit from organized panhandling, this is especially true of Gypsies in Europe. Anyways, a good post, I really liked it.

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    1. Thanks for reading brother, that’s nice of you to say. It really is only now that I realized I was perpetuating a bad lifestyle and since, have really limited myself from giving away freely, however some people are just irresistible. I always feel hesitant to give to organizations because I never know who the money goes to and at least with the homeless, a face can be attached to the gesture. I guess the best thing to do is offer to buy a beggar’s food and maybe get to talking to learn if there is something that can help him besides money.

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      1. Giving a homeless person food might injure their pride and trigger a negative response. On the other hand I know a guy that once gave two homeless young men a bottle of vodka, he said they were in extreme withdrawal and would have probably died without the alcohol, he said they were really thankful. He also said that gives money every now and then to one specific homeless guy, never really asked him why though.

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      2. You’re right but it’s a good and easy way to distinguish the man who sincerely needs help from one who is taking advantage of the pity of others. Your friend’s act is a great example of what Thoreau advised: give the man what he needs but remain mindful of how the example may influence him.

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