Day 138 – Setting limits

When you live in Vienna, especially near the city center, you are constantly confronted with beggars. Many of them are Roma or Sinti. Some of them apparently work in organized bands. You become very careful of people approaching and saying “Eine Frage …” (“A question …”). It is almost invariably the prelude to a request—sometimes peaceable, sometimes more aggressive—for money.

Yesterday I got off the bus near home and was stopped by a man who started his approach to me with “Eine Frage …” In the interest of interpersonal curiosity I suspended the automatic thought “Oh, here comes a request for money” and stopped and waited. And guess what. He wanted money.

Now, I give monthly to a few chosen charities, I give extra when there is an emergency like a drought or an earthquake, and I give regularly to one particular beggar who is physically handicapped and sits more or less in front of my door in almost all weathers. In this case, I drew the line and said “No, sorry.” I felt that I had at least practiced some interpersonal curiosity by stopping and listening. I didn’t feel I had to give money as well.


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