beggars in my plaza.

the following is a letter that was writen into my local paper today in the suburbs of Toronto.

Beggars around plazas should look for work.

I have a concern about the growing number of beggars cropping up in our plazas, especially the 404 plaza. Everyday, there’s at least one person begging for money for some reason or another. Come on, people, there are jobs out there. There are also services that can help these people. It ticks me off when I am shopping and one of these beggars hits me up for extra change. It’s time some of them got up off their butts and looked for work like anyone else. What this town doesn’t need is beggars. Toronto, especially Yonge Street, has enough of them.

i don’t write into the paper that often but upon reading that letter i couldn’t just ignore it. the only problem is that when writing to the paper your letters must be under 400 words. it was difficult to cut it down, but here is my response letter that i just sent in.

I would suggest that poverty is far deeper a problem than Mr. Webber (and the rest of us for that matter) may suspect or care to admit.

Much of the problem with our lack of compassion for the poor has to do with the individualistic and materialistic nature of the lives we live. We considered it a virtue to build for ourselves comfortable lives. In turn, money becomes more valuable to us if it stays in our pockets as opposed to going towards meeting the needs of others. This causes us to focus more on ourselves than others and as soon as I do that then I start to care more about myself than that man in the plaza.

We have segregated residences that we try to pass off as communities even though most people do not know their neighbours. Even though we live on the same streets we’re all living completely separate lives. This is a problem. There is a deep-seeded reason why people desire relationships with others and that is because humans were built for community. When we build up our own lives and live as individuals rather than a community we, in fact, dehumanize both ourselves and others.

These “beggars” that Mr. Webber refers too are valuable humans. On Saturday night I met a homeless man named Tim in a local plaza. I took the time to sit down and talk with him. On Sunday we went out for coffee. I say this not to boast, but to force myself to enter into relationship with poverty. I would argue to say that most people keep poverty at arms length. We live our own lives and maybe, if we are “charitable” enough, make donations to a charity every now and then to ease our conscience. However, this is a problem because it allows you to keep poverty at a distance. We trick ourselves into thinking that we care for the poor and then turn up our noses when we see a homeless person in a plaza.

So I urge you Mr. Webber, and the rest of our community, resist the temptation to keep this issue at a distance and enter into relationship with poverty. If we start to live this out then maybe we will find it less bothersome when “one of these beggars hits me up for extra change.”

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