The mendicants

I see her we everyday on my drive to work. She must be in her mid-20s now. I’ve seen her pregnant twice. Often times I’ve asked myself who takes care of her children. On several occasions, I see her getting off a jeepney in front of where she works. But rain or shine, she is at her work station. Tapping on my car window. Holding up an empty cup. Peering into tinted glass, until I make two quick taps, and she moves away and begins the same ritual in the next vehicle.

She is only one of several mendicants that beg along the village gates. And the streets of every town and city in this country. Metro Manila alone is home to over 1Million beggars.

For the record, I have nothing against beggars. As a matter of fact, seeing children asking for alms on a rainy day, all soaked and having to ply the streets for a morsel of bread is heart breaking enough.

And while I agree with concerned citizens that it is the role of the government to provide food, shelter, health care and education to its people, half the effort is on the people.

Growing up, we didn’t have much. My parents were young, innocent, idealistic and unemployed. The rest of my life story is history. We literally crawled out of the gutter. But I was never ashamed of our humble beginnings. That is the pride of my relative joy. But this is not about me. It’s about the challenges life throws our way. The lemons made into lemonade. The stale bread made into crumbs and used another day for our daily bread.

Life isn’t fair. No matter what life throws your way, no matter how unfair it may seem, refuse to play the victim. Refuse to be ruled by fear, pessimism and negativity. Refuse to quit.

The struggle is real in a world that is unfair. We need to realize that everything we do are based on choices we make. It’s not your parents, the economy, our government, the weather, our sex or an argument or age that is to blame. You and only you are responsible for every decision you make. Period.

How strange that resilience is the one factor that changes one’s compass in life.

While there is nothing wrong in begging for a meal, there are a million opportunities at improving our lives. Unfortunately, there are those who simply settle for mendicancy. Or stay unemployed hoping to have government provide cash support.

For example, I have many friends and family looking for good household help. I don’t understand why those on the streets refuse to being employed as household staff and earn a decent living. After all, this government has signed into law that all household help members should have equal rights and privileges in government mediated contributions like SSS and Philhealth! What better job opportunity than having free board and lodging, three meals a day, and a salary to top it all! If there are professionals willing to wash clothes, care for other people’s children or clean other people’s home in a land far beyond, leaving family and friends to become household help in other countries, I don’t understand why these street urchins refuse to get employed gainfully.

It is for reasons like this that I have little pity on mendicants. The woman I see on the street, day in and day out is there probably because she’s just plain lazy to get a job. Or she’s probably part of a syndicate that uses beggars to profit.

In life, there are consequences on the choices make. At the end of our lives, we are accountable at which one we feed. Whichever it is, we take responsibility because only we, can define our purpose.

I tap on the window of my car twice when she peers to look in. But I don’t look at her. I look straight ahead. She moves away. And I cannot help but glance at the side mirror and breath a small sigh of despair and wonder at whose emotions she would challenge next.

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