It was already on the concluding part of the First Reading when I arrived at the church for the Anticipated Mass one Saturday evening.
When I entered, I noticed someone who seemed to have isolated himself from the rest of those in attendance. The sole occupant, he was seated on one end of the pew which was situated third from the last row of pews on the rear end of the church.
Unfortunately, my usual seat was already occupied so I had to pick the nearest available which happened to be the opposite end of where he was. And since no one was seated in between us yet, I had a clear view of him as I sat down and I can’t help but notice his worn out dirty clothing, his thick, dry hair, his dark skin that looked like those exposed to too much sunlight. By the way he appeared, one would surmise that he could be mentally challenged.
As the mass went on, a family of four arrived and occupied the space between us so that he was no longer visible from my view.
Then came the offertory. While most were preparing for their offerings and waited for the collectors, I noticed that someone from our pew stood up and when I glanced towards the direction I saw him move towards the people sitting behind us and the last thing I saw before facing back to the altar, he was stretching his arm towards one of them, as if asking for something.
A few minutes later and after the offertory was concluded, I felt like someone poked me and when I turned to my side I was startled to see him standing next to me, his hand outstretched and muttered something like “palit pagkaon”.
While my mind was at a loss on what to do, I noticed that up close he didn’t really seem to be mentally ill but was more of a desperate beggar.
My mind was in a battle for a few more seconds as I initially wanted to spare him some money but finally decided against it and instead pointed my finger to the direction of the convent, trying to convey that he may ask for food in there. But he was not giving up and instead continued on to the next row of people in front of me until finally a Mass Facilitator took notice, approached him and ushered him away.
On my way out after the mass was ended, I saw him standing near the exit and continued begging to anyone who passed by near him.
While walking on my way home and looking back at what had happened, I somehow felt bad with what I did because it felt like I deliberately declined to extend help to someone who obviously needed it and especially because it happened inside the church during mass!
And although I am almost certain that most, if not all of those he approached did the same as it is strongly advised not to encourage begging and more so with the alleged existence of syndicated begging, I still think I should have done something for him.
This experience made me rethink my position on beggars and it made me ask the question: IS THERE SUCH A THING AS “ INAPPROPRIATE CHARITY”?
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