Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
- Leo Buscaglia

Friday, April 27, 2012

What About Beggars?

      Today our ship arrived at the Mediterranean island of Sardinia.  After disembarking from the ship, we boarded some buses and toured the island, stopping in a variety of small villages and harbor towns.  As luck would have it, my opportunity for kindness came in an unexpected way.
     I got to talking with a few of the people on the bus and ended up meeting 2 couples from Tennessee who are heavily involved in an amazing non-profit organization that provides humanitarian aid to villages in Southeast Asia, especially Cambodia.  One of the men actually runs the organization (as his full-time job).  In fact, he goes there for a few weeks at a time, 5 or 6 times each year.  Here’s their website:
      When I went online to check it out later, I decided I’d make a donation to their organization.  I generally want as close to all of my kindness acts to be for specific people rather than causes or organizations, but I don’t mind making some exceptions from time to time.  This was one of those times where it seemed particularly appropriate.  It’s exciting to meet people who are so committed to “doing good” that they devote a large part of their life to a specific mission.  There’s a lot to be learned from people like that.
     The last stop on our tour of Sardinia this morning was at the port city of Olbia.  It’s a classic European city with narrow cobblestone streets, tons of shops, and a chaotic mix of cars, pedestrians, and cyclists all competing for the limited roadway.  As I ambled up the street, I saw a man sitting in front of a wall, holding out his hat to collect money from anyone who would give it to him.  He looked at me pleadingly as I walked by.  He was the only beggar I saw, so it wasn’t like the images you see in parts of Asia. 
     I always feel conflicted when I see people like this.  Regardless of how they got there, they’re obviously at a point so low that most of us cannot even fathom.  Then there’s the question of whether throwing them some spare change can make any difference whatsoever. 
     I thought about it some more as I continued past him, and decided that on my return trip to the parking lot I’d give him so money.  Sure enough, he was still there, and when I gave him so money he seemed so thankful.  He shook my hand and smiled.  Who knows how much difference it made, and chances are that he’ll be there tomorrow again; but it still felt right to at least be kind to him and help keep him from going hungry for one more day.

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