Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Money things

Last night I took my iPod for a walk, being careful to stick to the "high streets"--ie, streets with stores, people and traffic. I only got lost once, but then I followed one of the buses and pretty soon I was back on familiar ground. While I was out walking, a woman came up to me crying and asked me for some money for baby formula, saying that her child hadn't eaten in five hours. It was heartwrenching--and I would have given her some money if she hadn't pulled the same stunt two months ago. (and if my floormates hadn't encountered her as well) Clearly something has caused her to end up in this situation, and she needs help, but not a handout from me. I remember when some of us were in Chicago and we gave our leftover pizza to a homeless person instead of money so he could eat, but not go out and buy drugs or alcohol. I am not insensitive to people living on the streets or people living in poverty, but begging is not the answer. There is a magazine here that is written specifically to be sold by homeless people called "The Big Issue," and they have to buy it and sell enough copies to make a profit. I bought one coming out of "Brokeback Mountain" the other day. The gentleman was very nice and we chatted a bit about how it "wasn't the cold, it was the rain." I let him keep the change. I feel mixed up about it. On one hand, I hate people who are just begging, but then, I feel like making people busk or something is demeaning. But then, I gave some money to a woman who had created a life-sized chalk drawing of Leonardo's "Last Supper" outside the National Gallery. (gotta support the arts, right?)

Then, on the flip side of this coin is the fact that I have been starting to think about getting a job. I even passed out a bunch of resumes to West End theatres. (I love London. I printed out 15 resumes, and handed them out to 15 different theatres in two hours) I paid my rent this semester--it was less than last semester because part of my tuition check paid for it, but it's still money, money, money. I'm not coy: I want a job so I can go shopping, go to the theatre, eat out more. My school is paid for, but I want to have a good time too. Yet, how can I say that I want a job so I can screw around in the big city when there are people "sleeping rough?"


Chris said...

I can understand the feeling of gulit/ frustration when dealing with wanting to have money and the fact that you're dealing with homeless and improveshed people in way that you really don't in Wisconsin. I found it was eariest to keep something like a muffin or a candy bar in my bag and when people ask for money for food I was able to give some food. Fruit is another good thing or those packaged sandwichs. Also finding somewhere where you can help is another way to deal with it. I know that its werid but that's I how I've dealt with it in London and in Chicago. Good luck on the jobs.:)

Laura said...

It's especially hard when you want to help from a good place in your soul but you feel people might not be being honest with you. It's hard not to become skeptical and desenitized. I think the best way is to keep in mind all the interrealted issues that cause poverty...and do what Chris said.
I've always found I may not always be able to give money to people who ask for it, but the times people have asked me for food - and I had some I always give it away. How can I not?