Tuesday, January 06, 2009

only a little good

Today I was walking down the street and I saw a man asking passers-by for money. He seemed to be fairly young, perhaps mid-thirties, with a beard and sunken cheeks. He was eating a chocolate bar while simultaneously shivering in the cold.

I handed him a dollar and he said something generic like "thank you, miss."

I walked off feeling kind of happy that I had given this man money. After a block or so, I slowly realized how silly and arrogant I was being. What kind of a difference would a loonie make in this man's life? Would it get him a warm place to sleep, or healthy food, or any peace of mind? I don't think so.

I gave it to him, not for him. But for myself, so I could feel better because I gave to the poor.

This applies to so many situations we find ourselves in. We do a little bit of good so that our consciences are slightly less burdened with guilt. But the world doesn't just need a band-aid. It needs many, many stitches.

And some operations, a couple of transplants, lots of pills, IV drips, and intensive therapy sessions.

My dollar is probably gone now, into the hands of some shop owner perhaps. And that man is probably still wandering the streets somewhere. I want to bring him by the hand and ask if he'd like some stitches to go along with that chocolate bar.


adnan. said...

this is a problem worth working on.

how do we do it?

it's many men and women in this mix.

Nauman said...

One must go to the root cause of the problem to seek a solution. There are many organizations which attempt to do this to varying degrees of success - maybe getting involved with one of them might help?

adnan. said...

what is the root cause?

Asmaa said...

There are a lot of organizations out there, for sure. But do any of them really address the "root cause" of the problems? I don't think so. Otherwise, we'd be seeing a lot more progress.

The root cause...well this isn't an absolute answer, but I can put forward a theory at least. I believe the root cause is unequal access to resources. The poor are kept poor because of policies that keep them down. For example, welfare recipients, who receive such a paltry amount of money to being with, cease being eligible to be on welfare if they're working. Even if their jobs pay minimum wage and they're single parents. The government tries to boot people out of the welfare system as quickly as possible, and directs them to dead-end jobs instead of education opportunities. An example being, you're not allowed to have a student loan and be on welfare at the same time, (a fairly new amendment to welfare policies that was made). So these people are left with very few options.

Also, a lot of homeless people have mental health issues that prevent them from functioning at the same caliber as the rest of the population. Social policy is such that these individuals may receive some help, but are quickly booted out of the system before they're ready or able to stand on their own two feet.

It's a matter of policy and political agendas. To change it would be equivalent to uprooting almost every status quo. I don't think the government, and the rich people who pretty much own the government are ready to take any positive steps.

My post was about something general though. The idea that we can lay off some of the guilt simply because we do a tiny "good deed"...but is that enough? Or are our consciences getting so desensitized, that all it takes to appease them is something akin to a dollar?

Wow, this is longer than the actual post. I will stop now.

adnan. said...

so what does it take to uproot the status quo?

Asmaa said...


Anonymous said...

Assalam alaykum,

Just a random reader.. with a random incomplete thought..

When you gave him that dollar, you did it for the pleasure of Allah, and not bcz your dollar would fix that man's life and ur reward is with Him inshaAllah! Allah's looking at your heart, and the reward is with your sincerity and intention.

Even if I gave him 500 dollars, I can't think this money can fix anything in his life, but I'm doing it to please Allah, and I hope for the reward.

Asmaa said...

Anon, walaikum assalaam.

Yeah, you're definitely right. My concern was that I was feeling good, as if I had made a change in the man's life, when I really hadn't. This isn't to say that you shouldn't do the little good that you can. On the contrary, we should always do good, even in small measures.

InshaAllah, we'll be rewarded for the little good things that we all do :)

Malcolm said...

No, it is the Satan behind closed doors telling you
“ why you feel happy, it is a loonie , will never make a difference to him/her, you might give a chocolate bar instead”

Satan feels so bad that you gives

I think you have done your part and he/she the beggar/the poor should do his/her and use this loonie for a better case to left him/herself from that level, you provided the best you can at that moment which is a loonie, someone came after you or within an hour or two and gives $10 and another in 4 hours gives $50 , they all should feels happy, and that is because it is part of the process, When Allah Almighty ask us to give the needy and the poor because it will please him first and it will please us second, Allah wants you to be please all the time and if part of the pleasure to give the needies and the poor, and that is why you see many sad people on the road, simply because they do not spare not even a smile.

Keep on giving,

Asmaa said...

Malcolm...thanks for visiting :) I will do my best to keep on giving. And inshaAllah, I hope that I have good intentions and that I'm rewarded for them.

I was simply commenting on the fact that although it may be the only thing I can give now, society still needs so much more. It needs revolutionaries and policy-makers that will develop the system in such a way to prevent poverty homelessness in the first place.