The Generalist

Affluent Beggars

I saw them again yesterday. Affluent kids standing at the supermarket exit holding buckets to collect cash from shoppers as they leave the store. The signs that adorn those buckets read “Support [insert name of town or public high school] Crew”… or Football, Soccer, Hockey, or Lacrosse…. Sometimes they want a trip to Florida, or Italy, or England. Often their parents are sitting there right beside them in little folding chairs looking on proudly or sporting a bucket of their own.

Yes, their parents don’t just condone this sort of behavior, they participate in it. Apparently there is no shame in it. Apparently they have not equated it with exactly what it is:

Begging.

I had thought that given the state of the Northeast after Hurricane Sandy I might not see this for awhile, although it’s very common around here. I thought it much more likely that I would see real charitable organizations asking for contributions to help those who have lost their homes – certainly a worthy cause. But no. These beggars are asking for money for themselves. Not because they’re poor. Not because they’re disabled. But so that they can enjoy a luxury and one which, by the way, their parents are more than equipped to pay for.

Besides being affluent and begging for a luxury, what’s worse is that nearly all of this begging is done in the name of a public school that has already taken money from taxpayers.

Some years ago I attended a real estate school. One day the students got off on a side discussion about taxes for school and I said that I thought it was unfair that I had to pay taxes for school, since I didn’t have any children. A man in the front was very upset by my remark. He had kids in school and felt that it was perfectly fair that others be made to pay to support them. He thought that I was being selfish for not wanting to. Apparently his desire to take from me (and by force no less) to support his children was not selfish at all.

To be fair, I don’t think this had ever really occurred to him before. Until I brought it up, it was something he had just accepted and never analyzed. (You might say it’s a form of brainwashing, but in truth his brain was never washed because it never had done any conscious consideration in the first place.) However, I got the sense from him that he would be thinking about what I had said from that day on. I still wonder what became of him.

But this is different, right? The kids are begging, they’re not forcing anybody.

No. But it’s the same sense of entitlement that allows people to do this sort of begging without feeling any shame. Many of the poorest people who beg feel terrible shame in having to do it, and they are truly in need. What excuse do these kids and their parents have? I’ve imagined asking them a few innocent questions to see if even then they show any signs of embarrassment.

Maybe something like this:

Q. Oh. Are you poor?

A. No.

Q. Oh. Are you disabled?

A. No.

Q. Oh. (Here maybe I’d drop a quarter in the bucket.)

Now, I don’t mind children fund raising for their school events. But they should do it by trading value for value. Whatever happened to a car wash, a bake sale, or putting on a play? In fact, fundraising in this manner is a way to teach children that they should not expect something for nothing – that living in a civilized society requires trading value for value. In truth, that is one of the most important things a child need to learn at that age.

But maybe that’s exactly why such things are not done so much anymore.

It’s interesting that they are always begging outside of the supermarket. Maybe someone should throw some food stamps in their buckets.

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