I love Ireland. Anyone who reads this blog or who knows me personally knows how much I do. Some days, however, like today, I feel ashamed for being a part of a society that lets beggars sit half-naked, without shoes, without pants in the bitter cold on one of the busiest shopping streets of Ireland (Henry Street, just off O’Connell Street). People walking past carry shopping bags of expensive stores without glancing at a man sitting there begging for money, or if they glance, they show contempt: “How dare he sit here like that?!”
Perhaps this image does not fit in many people’s reality, but it doesn’t make it a lesser reality because they deny this person’s hardship. If anything, people who show contempt for someone so poor and so down and out only gets contempt from me.
We’re 7 weeks away from Christmas, yet I foresee this man still sitting there with a dirty coffee cup for people to throw some money in. Still no socks, no shoes, no pants, no nothing, just like I have seen him sitting there before. Have we all become so selfish that we cannot even give this man something as cheap as a pair of socks and other clothes to get him dressed against this harsh, cold weather? I felt ashamed and defenseless against the continuing reality of this man, his daily living – suffering would be the more proper term to use – and the lack of some people showing one grain of interest in his well-being.
I don’t want to be part of a culture that doesn’t care anymore and I refuse to stand idle against social issues like that. Charity begins at home as they say… so instead of our government spending €660 million on foreign aid each year, they would get a lot more sympathy of Ireland’s population if for once, that huge amount of money would be spent at home for and to the people of Ireland.
Tomorrow I am bringing him clothes that don’t fit me anymore and I hope he will accept them. His dignity is long gone, as are his clothes but that does not mean that the man is past helping. Charity also comes from within and if people do not feel empathy and understanding for a human being who is so, so clearly anguished then I’m afraid I fail to see what would make them feel anything at all.
I am not huge on religion but isn’t looking after people part of our make-up of being human? “Do not unto others what you would not want others to do unto you,” Confucius and the Bible says. Have our morals really dropped that low that we cannot comprehend in the slightest what a homeless, undressed and hungry person must be going through?
Of course this is not only an Irish situation, you will find beggars everywhere in the world. What is endemic to Ireland though is that its people are helpful and social, more so than in other European countries. Everyone knows “how friendly the Irish are.” And they are, but this morning I saw part of a society turning its face away from visible, clear misery. The people who showed contempt at this half-naked man this morning might not be Irish but it was upsetting to see either way.
I know that there are beggars looking for money to buy food, and then there are beggars out for some cash to buy drugs. This man does not need drugs, he needs clothes on his back, shoes on his feet and some food in his belly to make him feel somewhat dignified. If we are not able to help him, who will? The government? Somehow I don’t think so.
If you’re in Dublin, Ireland and you have old clothes, please spare a thought for the homeless in our city. The man I refer to is sitting near the Aldo shoe shop in Henry Street, just off O’Connell Street. He is sitting down, t-shirt pulled over his legs to hide his bare legs and he’s not wearing shoes. He is skinny, between 5ft 3 and 5ft 10, dark-haired and has brown eyes. I was walking past around 11.30am and I saw him there before so this must be his regular spot to beg.
Hopefully – how sad a hope is this – he will be there tomorrow morning.
© Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2013. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.