"Sailed not as a seaman, but as a traveler..."

"Sailed not as a seaman, but as a traveler..."- Sir Thomas More's Utopia

Saturday, October 30, 2010

To give or not to give.

Photo: Dried fish vendor getting rich during Fiestang Apu

In every country I've been to, there are beggars. The streets of neither the richest nor the poorest countries are spared this simple fact - there are always people in need.

The worst part of the poor here in the Philippines is that I speak the language. When beggars come up to me in Paris or even in the slums of Istanbul, I don't understand a word they say, making it much easier for me to continue walking without even acknowledging their existence. Here however, in the Philippines, the beggars come up to me pulling at my sleeves and speaking my mother's tongue, a language I only speak at home and to my family. How can I ignore a child, hair bleached a golden brown from the unrelenting sun, as he calls me big brother? How can the heart not be moved by an old woman, face leathered from weathering such tumultuous times, calling out to me, "son?"

It has always been against my nature to give my hard-earned money to beggars. How do I tell them that I'd rather not water the weeds of poverty? I'm torn because I cannot in good conscience perpetuate the problem, yet, neither can I just stand there and watch my brothers and grandmothers starve.

I wish against everything I have ever been told that I can one day tell my brethren as they ask for the loose coins in my pocket that I'm working toward a future that they may not see but will one day come.


  1. keep on with the blogging. i just love them! you're an Incredible writer. So awe-inspiring! Hope you're having a great time.

  2. Yo! When I was in India this was something on my mind a lot, as there are tons of beggars there as well. I never gave them money - if Phillipines is anything like India, a lot of these beggars are forced to give some of this money to street gangs that run the area, and supporting those gangs is not something I wanted to do. There's much more happening there than meets the eye, much more than just a beggar trying to get by. A lot of bad people prey on the helpless and use them because they elicit sympathy from people who will give them money.

    So what did I do? I gave them food. I walked around with a pocket full of vitamin candies that particularly the kids loved, and I loved seeing the look on their faces when a candy was dropped into their hands, because they knew this was something THEY would enjoy, not their boss who probably mistreats them anyway. It was a small moment of comfort that these people greatly deserve. Plus they're vitamins, so it's getting them some much needed nutrition.

    I also give money to organizations that I know are doing good work, like the American Jewish World Service, and the orphanage I taught at in my family's town in Mexico.

    Sorry I haven't been keepin up to date on your travels, Erick! Once finals are over I'll go and read your back entries, you're truly on an amazing journey, and I love your writing style.

  3. Thanks again for the love guys.

    The problem with poverty is that it is a negative feedback loop. Yes, most beggars in large third world cities are part of organized crime rings, but it goes so much deeper. Why do gang lords choose to syndicate the poor? It's difficult to say that it's simply the nature of the wicked to prey on the weak. Personally, I think poverty must be considered in a sort of wholistic manner, a small piece in a portrait of the entire world. To change the nature of poverty we would need to change the very consciousness of humanity.