My Grandma’s Take On Beggars

Reaching the red traffic light, another beggar with the familiar frayed carton box welcomes my three minutes wait. I’m one of those people that instead of looking the other way, I stare at them. I can’t take my eyes off those who scribble ‘Homeless’, or ‘Need Help’ signs.

And the same thoughts will always sneak into my mind: what lead them to get to this point? Did their lives were ever good before and deteriorated somehow, or is it their unfortunate born destiny?

I stare at the young, not older than twenty-five years old woman, and wonder again why can’t she get a job. Perhaps, any job is not enough to live by, but does collecting pennies and dimes from strangers is enough to live by? Is she sick? Perhaps, she does work but can’t make enough to cover medical bills?

The woman meets my eyes for a split of a second, but when I hesitate, her eyes drop to the ground and she looks past me. It doesn’t help that I’m first in line. What kind of an example would the others behind me follow if I can’t open my heart?

I don’t know her story, and never will, unless I decide to make a point to know her story. By now, my three minutes seems like eternity. They should really change the wait time on red lights. A lot can happen while waiting.

I like her jeans and T-shirt, although she could have tried better with her hair and tennis shoes. Then again, how can she even afford such a fashionable Jeans?

This is the point when I hear my grandma’s voice again! It never fails.

As hard as I try, as close as the seconds tick and I know the light is about to change, I realize it is a lost battle. I reach to that tiny compartment, where I keep my change, especially for the Homeless signs, and gather one dollar in coins.

Shaking my head, I roll the window down and signal to the astounded woman to reach over. I nod my head to her blessings and thank you muttering, and at last drive away.

And I know that everyone behind me shake his or her heads as well. ‘What a loser’, they must say. How will she ever try harder? Get a job? Support herself and take responsibility for her life?

But I have my grandma’s voice in my head, they don’t. And my grandma’s voice says:

“Don’t ever pretend to be God and understand the reasons behinds the pleading hands. No human would go to this length of shame, unless it is sincere. Yes, occasionally there are dishonest people, but it’s not our business to investigate their motives. There is one judge in heaven, and it’s more than enough. Don’t ignore a pleading hand.” (Yamit Armbrister, “One Moroccan Woman”, Chapter 2, Page. 7).

Grandma, you have no idea what you did to me!

What would you do?

About the Author
Yamit Armbrister graduated with a BA in Social Sciences from Bar Ilan University in Israel, and holds an MBA from Walden University in Maryland. She is the author of 'One Moroccan Woman, a historical novel about the wave of Jewish immigration to Israel in the 1950s. In her free time, Yamit writes columns, teaches creative writing and writes some more.