Sunday, September 21, 2008

Depth of Human Pain

Today on my walk around town I couldn’t help but take notice of all the beggars. I know that this is not a situation unique to this city, or even to Central Asia in general but I was struck afresh with how they go about it.

First you have your beggars who sit on the street corners or stairs with their faces covered; you can’t really tell why they are there until you see their hand come out as you walk by. Many people ( even locals) are skeptical of these type of beggars, often questioning the persons laziness at resorting to looking for handouts on the street. Second are the ones who are trying to give back as they beg, many of these folks have brought along an old instrument of some sort and are playing music hoping that people will toss them some small change for their trouble.

Finally there are those who feel the need to explain why they are begging. These people will often have a typed out copy of the tragedy that has befallen their family. They sit beside the message board ( in both languages) and let people read it and accept money out of sympathy for their situation. Today on my way I took the time to read some of these stories. They really are heart breaking. Some people are trying to raise money so that their children can have an operation they desperately need, others have been burned or deformed in an accident that prevents the father from making money to feed his family of five. Often people have pictures to accompany their stories, pictures of infectious skin disorders, or physical deformities, one guy had his lung x-ray out on the street for all to see, one family even had a collection of doctor's notes and official hospital documentation (all stamped with a red stamp, of course) stating what was wrong.

I have learned over the years that I have been here to keep my small change. Anything that is less than one local dollar gets shoved into the front pocket of my purse. This gives me easy access to reach for a few coins whenever I pass one of these sick souls lying on the side of the street. But these few coins seem so little compared to the depth of human pain.

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