The beggar dilemma

It’s a lovely day and you’re cruising along with your windows open, enjoying the light summer breeze, when you spot a beggar at the traffic light you’re coming up to. What do you do? Quickly roll your window up? Put on your sunglasses? Pretend to be in-depth in conversation on your phone? Most of us have absolutely no idea how to deal with this daily dilemma and even less of an idea what to teach our kids.

My philosophy is that every single human being is of value,  just by the fact that they are alive. They should be acknowledged as such and treated with respect. I have spent enough time coaching, and before that doing trauma counseling (and working at the time with a number of homeless people at our drop-in centre), to know that behind every face is an incredible story. And once you know enough stories, you are unlikely to judge.

Does this mean that I give every beggar some spare change? Absolutely not. There is nothing empowering about a hand-out and we already have an over-developed culture of entitlement in this country. With regards to beggars (and car guards for that matter) what I teach my kids is this:

Let your money go where your energy flows. Spend your money on things and people that lift your spirit. If someone begging at the traffic lights brings a smile to my face by a funny sign that they’ve really thought about, or by entertaining people while they wait for the lights to change, or is friendly and chatty without giving me the “woe is me” long version, then I’m happy to pop them some change. I’m not even adverse to handing out a R100 note if I feel inspired by someone who is really making an effort to help themselves and is positive and friendly and not pandering to my guilt.


Teach your kids never to spend their money to alleviate guilt. It’s a bottomless pit. Deal with your guilt and let it go, or use this energy to do something that is actually useful… travel equipped with some useful information (local homeless shelters, who to contact to sell the Homeless Talk, contact details for the Twilight Children) or start a soup kitchen, grow a pavement vegetable garden, teach someone a marketable skill, support local trade.

Whatever you do, leave your window down, smile, and acknowledge the human being that stands before you, a real person with a story that you will never truly be able to fathom. In this way you teach your children love over fear, respect over hostility, and kindness over hatred. And be grateful to that person for giving you the opportunity to give your kids these lifelong gifts!

Click here to find a list of charities that work with kids that you can help

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Mia Von Scha

Mia Von Scha

Mia Von Scha, Transformational Coach, motivational speaker, children’s author, student to two Zen Masters (aka kids), avid cloud watcher and lover of life.

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17 Responses

  1. Wonderful article,thx. My 6 year old once packed a pair of shoes,socks,a jeans and a t-shirt(all in excellent condition) and we took it over to a specific beggar we see roaming daily,and wearing garbage bags. My little guy handed him the bag. And that very ungrateful person swore at us continuously until we left. We might want to help our children understand but in cases like that,as a parent I couldnt understand it myself.

    1. I remember the person wearing garbage bags. I think he was deranged. Our health system not being the best means that often the mentally challenged wind up on the streets.

      There is a crime element to the begging as one of those wearing a grey blanket smashed my window with a spark plug and robbed me.

      The ones that bow down in the middle of the street worry me the most as they can easily get run over.

      I buy little parcels of sliced cold meat or loaves of bread and hand them out. Cold water on a hot day is also nice

  2. I would rather support a charity of which I do, as have had a bad experience with beggers at robots that are working with hi-jackers at robots and intersections

  3. Always inspiring Mia.. I honestly never carry cash on me, it’s a problem I know. My son (8) came up with the idea that we should keep frozen bottles of water, bananas and apples in the car to give to people in need. I agree that begging should not be encouraged but at the same time, I can’t imagine the circumstances that would force a person to beg so food is probably always welcomed.

    1. Thanks Fatima! Having heard so many people’s stories, I know that the road to begging is never a simple one. Any of us could be in the same place had we faced those same circumstances. I think your son’s idea is brilliant!

  4. This is a good article and food for thought about closing the windows, but with the hi-jacking and all I think my options to close will always remain.

    I do sometimes give when I have and I have taught my Daughter that I may not give to those at the robots but I do support the Church who in turns helps those in need. We also a group of families that we support with her clothes as she choses each time who to give to and I do guide her if more to one and not the other.

    I still feel guilty at times but I then prayer that God will provide their daily bread and needs as he promises us.

    1. Hi Tracy.

      I agree that we need to be sensible in terms of safety. There are so many ways that we can make a difference in the world that it is not necessary to feel you need to put yourself or your family at risk. My point was more about teaching kids that all people deserve dignity and kindness regardless of their circumstances.

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