I was reading the book, Dancing in The Shadows of Love by my blogger friend Judy Croome about a young girl, Jamila, and her feelings begging in the streets of her city. Judy so eloquently wrote about how people’s judgments pierced through her and how her situation was not an easy one. She described it so well that it made me think of the young children who ran in the street of Amman begging for money and how I was always warned about them… those women in black long dresses holding sleeping babies in their arms or the little barefooted children going from car to car asking for a few pennies.
“Be careful,” they would say, “They play tricks on you. They are not as poor as you might think they are. They are dropped off by vans in the morning at certain locations and are contacted by their leader instructing them to act and behave in certain ways and then picked up at the end of the night.” Others would say “The poor little things get those few pennies and their fathers take them and spend them on cigarettes instead of sending their kids to public schools.”
Despite all the stories I heard, I could never resist the urge of giving to these kids or women but I knew that paying them did not really benefit them. And so I decided to take on a different approach. If indeed they used the money I gave them to buy cigarettes for their uncles or fathers, I would either provide them with food or talk to them about selling something at the lights.
I have many stories about my interactions with the children who passed by my car but one story affected me the most…
and here it goes…
There was a 12 year old handsome boy, Aziz, begging at the lights one day in the summer of 2006. He was wearing shabby torn dirty clothes… he asked for money but instead I parked the car on the side of the road and called him to me. I talked to Aziz for what seemed to be an hour about how it would be better for him to actually sell something and how people would definitely buy from him as they would feel they are benefiting as well. I also encouraged him to continue his schooling no matter how hard he expressed it to be as it would be the key for him to escape the current situation he was in. More than that, it would hopefully provide him with much better opportunities in the future.
I enjoyed the talk and seeing his handsome smudged face smile and I promised him that I would buy from him if he ever sold anything. A year passed with me not seeing him but then one day a handsome boy approached me looking decent and with shoes on. I did not recognize him at first but then he said, “Khalti (which means Auntie and it is said to older people as a sign of respect), do you remember me?”
I felt so bad because I honestly didn’t. I see so many faces on the streets and in the classroom that I did not recognize the eyes staring back at me. “Khalti, you told me to find something to sell and said that you would buy from me.”
A flash of memories flooded back… oh yes, I remembered him… How could I have forgotten? I spent an hour with Aziz and now look at what he was doing? I was so proud of him. I parked the car to the side and we had a little chat. He was selling strawberries and I, as promised, bought two baskets from him. I asked him if he heeded my other advice too and he nodded his head with a smile saying that he attends school in the mornings.
I left after a few minutes of chatting with him feeling a sense of relief and satisfaction. He made something of himself. He stopped begging for petty little pennies and was actually working… Yes, he was still walking around cars at traffic lights but he was working now… he was selling something and was going back and forth from his box of strawberries to the cars selling his stock.
Yes… people can improve their living condition with a little bit of guidance… help… perseverance and a goal.
If we opened our hearts to the people on the streets and helped to guide them instead of judge them, we would feel good about that contact ourselves. Being kind and generous with our time, money and advice would help both parties…. would fill both parties with satisfaction, a warm tingly feeling and would probably change how each party views the other… A Kind word… a charming smile… and an extended hand… would help us all and make this world a more understanding, accepting and kinder world.