I invited a friend over for lunch the other day.  I told him about one incident I encountered in Bucharest. We ended up with a debate after lunch. The following is the incident I mentioned to him.

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One night when I went out for a walk in Bucharest, I saw a little girl no more than 6 years old out on the street after 9 o’clock at night. She was holding a picture of Jesus and sitting alone around the street corner by the hotel begging for money.

I was very sympathetic but I knew that if I gave her money, it would just encourage her parents to continue such a terrible ordeal for the little one. On my way back to the hotel, sure enough, the little girl had moved across the street sitting on the ground and falling asleep in a male’s arms behind a car. I assumed that he was the father. Further down the road, I saw a female with two other children begging for money again. This scene of panhandling is very common in Romania. 

I know the situation in Romania is dire, but we have people panhandling in all major metropolitans in North America, too. My friend insisted that he would definitely give money to those panhandlers because it is a profession that those people choose. Really?

Many panhandlers we have encountered here in Toronto are homeless drifters who chose to live that way. There is government social assistance available to some extent to help those people, but many of them have decided to opt out and panhandle on the street instead. So, for some of them, it is a life style decision by choice.

For the panhandlers in Romania, it is a complicated situation because the whole country is going through the growing pain of social and economic development ever since the fall of Communism. Some older Romanians are still romanticising with the social stability and the security that the Communist government used to bring to the old country. Right now, the social security is literally non-existent.

However, to give the littler girl money is somewhat indirectly encouraging her parents to put her on the street every night to beg for the sympathy from the passerby. I somehow struggle with the thought of “selling the kid for money”. Anyway, it was very difficult for me to walk by the kids without doing anything to help them. That was a restless night afterwards. 

Is panhandling really a profession? What do you think?

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