ethel’s words

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STREET BEGGARS

(DIFFERENT FROM SUITE BEGGARS)

“I don’t want them around me” said a local talk jock some time ago. “I don’t want them to get close.”

Well, poor baby you, I thought. Wouldn’t it be terrible if you got close enough to hand a beggar a dollar bill. My, how delicate you are. (I hasten to add, I am fiercely resistant to being touched; I hate shaking hands, but I dislike rudeness more. I do do a lot of embracing.)

I never pass up a beggar if I have a dollar bill. This is easy for me; I don’t walk downtown streets often, so I encounter beggars (using signs) only at places where I buy food. So maybe once or twice a week at most I part with a dollar.

But do lots of persons respond to beggars? I don’t know. I’ve never watched after I have gone by. What I do know is that bad luck can hit anybody. (I had my turn.)

There is a right to life, I believe. And what does that mean? It means each person has a right to have what is necessary to sustain life. That doesn’t mean we can all be beggars, but it does mean that each of us individually has a right to obtain, or try to obtain, whatever is necessary to keep our body alive.

Now that there is no place on the continent, that I can dream of, where a person has a right to the fruits of the Earth, the person who has no economic niche--at any moment in time--has only two options: beg or steal.

There is something brutal about turning away a beggar and forcing that person to steal and risk prison. Brutal.

Ethel C. Hale