She lay on the street, hands curled around a baby too malnourished to cry, feet clawed defiantly into cobblestones brimming with past atrocities. The slight tilt of her head indicated her appeal for money. Her deploring, brown eyes were trained expertly on the wealthy tourists – waiting, almost deliberately full of scorn, for a scrap of luck.
Luck? I recognized the need for it, as I strolled by the woman perched near the Spanish Steps in Rome. My mind recalled warnings from well-meaning travellers, “Don’t give to beggars while travelling, they’ll only follow you,” and, “If you give them anything, they’ll only do it more.” Do what more? Beg on the streets while tourists amble by with stomachs full of pasta?
All over the world, there’s an urgent need to eradicate the business that poverty lends itself to. Yes, it’s true that if we give, we might be supporting a tragically flawed system. One that enables pimps and thieves to take advantage of people’s misfortune.
Why I choose to go with intuition, every time
If tourists never give to beggars while travelling, perhaps the common scams won’t continue. But, really, we’re all guilty of over-analysing, rather than taking action. We can choose to give or not based on these judgements, but the suffering is obvious. Regardless, it can be a tough choice, especially if your own safety is involved.
I gave the woman an apple and the coins I had. Her sodden eyes glittered with relief, she moved with sudden energy to grasp the shiny red skin and her teeth bit into the juicy fruit to tear its nutrition to pieces and feed it to the baby.
Relief washed over me. Relief for the fact that I had walked with my eyes open. Allowing each moment to be as it is, so I could make the right decision based on what I saw and, more importantly, felt. What I saw was pain and hardship, despite the pimp who may have been waiting to scoop up the money. What I felt, was the need to do something to help.
What I discovered, is when I shut down my judgements and thoughts, based on a privileged Western life, my intuition chooses for me best…and I’m happy to let it.