Friday, 10 December 2010

Spare some change?

Banksy: "Keep your coins; I want change."
Today, as I was walking out of a uni building, on a mission, in search of a Post Office (which I later realised was nowhere near there), something happened. A student, male, white, around 19/20 said:

"Excuse me, I wonder if you could help me." I'm a bit of a power-walker and was in a rush so I was almost down the steps and had to turn around to look at who just said that.

"I wonder if you could help me." He repeated.

"With what?" I asked.

He produced a fifty pence piece and said:

"I need some money to get home, this is all I have. I'm really genuine, all I need it for is to get home."

The cynic in me thought he'd spend it on drugs, so I scanned his face. He did not look like a user at all. I was in a dilemma, should I give him some change? And if so, how much? How could I be sure he was just going to use it on bus fare?

"How much do you need?" I asked as I weighed up the options.

"I really don't know, maybe like 2 quid," He replied.

I could see the desperation on his face. I still couldn't decide what to do, but the cynic in me just took over. He could tell that I didn't know what to do.

"You might wanna try the Student Information Point..?" I said, pointing to it behind me, hoping they could help him out.

"I've already been there, they can't help me. Please, please. I've asked everyone. All I need is to get home." His face began to wobble and he burst into tears. He was so vulnerable.

The cynic in me whispered: "He's turned on the water works just to get you to part with your money, don't be fooled by him."

Despite these thoughts, my heart actually melted. But I couldn't stop thinking about how I could be sure he was going to use it on bus fare.

"I'm really sorry, but I've jut got enough to send this item off at the post office, I really haven't got anything to spare." I said, and looked at the bag in my left hand that contained a perfume I sold on Ebay and had to send off.

I felt bad, because a) I was lying- I had change and b) he was getting really desperate.

"I'm really sorry but good luck anyway." I said, and walked off.

"Thanks," he sniffed.

Later, when I was waiting at the bus stop, I began to think about the encounter that just happened and I actually shed a little tear for this guy. I should have asked him why he had no money, or where was his credit card, or maybe I should have just given him the money and made sure he got on the bus... All these thoughts began to circle in my head.

I began to recall several other encounters with people in the last city I was studying in. They would always say "I need £1 to get on the train to leeds, I've got no change." But they were notorious prostitutes and drug users (I'm not exaggerating), and now it's become drilled into me that all "beggars" want money for drugs or alcohol. This guy wasn't trampy at all, he was just a student like me. I felt so bad for not giving him anything, I made a little du'a that if he was genuine for Allah to get him home safely, and I reassured myself that Allah takes care of all his creation. I even pondered going back and giving him something, apologising for lying, but at that moment, my bus arrived.

What do you do in situations like this? To give or not to give? 


Aisha said...

i empathise with you on this topic. the very same questions would have ran through my mind.

just the other day a woman; scruffy looking, stank of stale cigerettes, coarse voice, asked me if she could lend my phone. she was offering me 70p for a just a few minutes to use it. i automatically blurted out 'no, sorry, i have no minutes'. i felt bad after but then thought she could have ran off with it for all i knew...

but like you [not so much a dua if im honest] i hoped she would be able to get in touch with whoever it was she wanted to speak to.

i guess its fear. you hear about people getting mugged on streets, and the drug taking etc. you never really know someone and so you put your guard up.

Muslim Girl said...

Situation's like these are tough because it's always like a battle between what your mind says vs. your heart. I think the du'aa was a good response to the guilt.

Hopefully he got home okay!

Urooba said...

Wow, what a toughie.
Goodness, I wouldn't have known what to do.

Agreed; I'm glad you made dua!

Thanks for this post girly-whirly--it really made me think!

UmmUmar said...

Whenever anyone asks me for change I always so I haven't got any... sure it's lying. But I just feel that in the country I live in, you're never completely stranded enough to have to beg for money. . . is that naive of me?

Anyway, another great post - got me thinking and looking at myself :)

hijabi hippie hypo said...

@Aisha: I see your point, I would never give a stranger my phone cos after all they could just run off with it

@MG: Yep it's quite tough & inshaAllah I hope so too

@Urooba: I'm glad it made you think :)

@UmmUmar: I agree with you and I don't think you're being naive. Begging is actually illegal in the UK, and the government here has so many different benefits that help people for many different circumstances, so in a way, they have no reason to beg. But in some illegal activities e.g. prostitution or for drug addiction it's a catch-22 and the person always needs more money, and cannot find work if they have a criminal record etc.

' Ƹ̵̡Ӝ̵̨̄Ʒ Sσrℓisค ... , said...

I was in a similar situation. Once, as I was crossing the zebra crossing, a young boy clutching his skateboard (under 10 years old I'd say) approached me and asked me kindly if he could use my phone to call his mother, because he didn't have any credit left on his phone.

Because of the city I live in and all the crime and trickeries, I'm naturally cautious... so during that instance, I thought to myself... there could easily be other people hiding around the corner, ready to get my phone off me had I handed it to the little boy. And I would not be able to do anything if I needed any help, because it would look like I was stealing the phone from the little boy!

So... I lied ( =( ) and said I didn't have my phone with me.
Yet, I felt guilty and worried for the boy all the same, because my instinct was based on an assumption.

A few seconds after, I carry on walking... and I see the boy make his way to a nearby shop... probably asking if he could use the phone >.<

Aminah said...

I remember when I went to Pakistan for summer vacation and there were a bunch of beggars on the street asking for money. My mom always told me to ignore them, but at that time I didn't get it.
Nevertheless, I would go ahead and give the money as long as it wasn't going to hurt me financially. If the person uses it for something wrong, it's their fault.
Remember this Hadith?
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle (p.b.u.h) said, "A man said that he would give something in charity. He went out with his object of charity and unknowingly gave it to a thief. Next morning the people said that he had given his object of charity to a thief. (On hearing that) he said, "O Allah! All the praises are for you. I will give alms again." And so he again went out with his alms and (unknowingly) gave it to an adulteress. Next morning the people said that he had given his alms to an adulteress last night. The man said, "O Allah! All the praises are for you. (I gave my alms) to an adulteress. I will give alms again." So he went out with his alms again and (unknowingly) gave it to a rich person. (The people) next morning said that he had given his alms to a wealthy person. He said, "O Allah! All the praises are for you. (I had given alms) to a thief, to an adulteress and to a wealthy man." Then someone came and said to him, "The alms which you gave to the thief, might make him abstain from stealing, and that given to the adulteress might make her abstain from illegal sexual intercourse (adultery), and that given to the wealthy man might make him take a lesson from it and spend his wealth which Allah has given him, in Allah's cause."

Who knows, because of you, someone might turn to the right path! It never hurts to be optimistic. :)

Sorry for the long comment haha.

Anonymous said...

Dear Hippie Hypo,

I was on your shoes for many years. I was very cynical.
What changes me is over e year ago, my town had an earthquake, destroyed many houses, and killed many people.
From that day, more beggars are on the street.

My own personal experience was:

There was a woman came to my house, I was alone. The electricity just went on and water also already flowed normally (for a month or so we have no electricity and no water, we have to drive to a hard flowing river to do laundry and get in line for hours for water to drink, mashaAllah it was an amazing experience.. I'm grateful Allah had given me the chance to know how that feels like)
So, the lady asked for a blanket, milk, money, bed sheets, food, (well, almost anything a person possibly needed on that circumstances)
I then gave her money.. No bed sheets or blanket, etc, because I live with my parents and I couldn't give her that (I never bought those on my own money).
When she went away, I was thinking, what if she lied? what if she visit every houses in this neighbourhood and ask for the same stuff (i live in a comfortable area)? SO many what ifs...

Until my father came and said :
If she was lying, that means her daughters are actually sleeping in a proper bed, and her family actually have enough food. Isn't it a good thing?
The sincerity on giving charity is not by having assurance that the people we are helping is miserable, but the hope that may their life is not again difficult.
Because $50 dollars will not solve all the people's life problems, they are not going to be incredibly rich, and we will never be poorer (bcoz Allah is Rich)

Since then I never hesitate giving money to beggars (bcoz i used to think they are lazy), i do believe Allah will reward me good and may them get better lives.

Is this comment went too long? If so, i'm sorry :D

Anonymous said...

MashaAllah I was too spirited I even forgot to say salam!!

Salam alaikum, Hiipi Hypo..

sisters hugs!