Shawna Kay Williams-Pinnock | Stop the beggy-beggy, waanty-waanty
About two weeks ago, I was walking on a low-trafficked roadway in Kingston when a teenage girl, dressed in uniform, approached me.
"Miss, the basic school lock?" she asked, referring to the kindergarten from which I had just exited.
"Yes, it appears so. I did not see anyone there," I responded.
Within seconds of my final word, she made an appeal.
"Beg yuh fifty dolla, Miss."
Her voice had not the slightest tinge of childlike innocence or timidity.
Though I was taken aback by her bold and sudden request, I managed to calmly and politely deny her the "fifty". Sadly, the sweltering sun did not allow me to stop and school her.
A week later, I realised that one of my students looked rather droopy and downcast during one of our half-day summer-school sessions.
"Are you all right?" I inquired.
"Miss ... ," he hesitated, "mi mother nuh give me nuh lunch money. She only give me a sandwich."
As much as my immediate thought was to get him lunch, I only offered him a drink to sparge the sandwich. In truth, I wanted to purchase a fruit juice for him, but I then decided to get him water instead.
When I saw him during the lunch break, I asked him if he had already eaten his sandwich. He explained that he had not done so, as it was made with peanut butter - his not-so-favourite. "Mi nuh really like peanut butter, Miss," he explained.
I phoned his mother, and she explained that she had fed him breakfast and had proposed that he lunch on leftovers from the prior day's dinner. However, he refused.
She also stated that she was "low on cash", and with another son to take care of, she was unable to offer him much more at the time. His father was also financially strapped, she added.
On another occasion, my husband and I were making our way to a KFC outlet in Spanish Town. Before entering, two little boys alongside the entrance pitifully pleaded with us for money. We did not oblige their request.
"And unnu a go KFC?" one fumed. Imagine our shock at his fury and implicit demand. We simply proceeded without responding, of course.
Collectively, these encounters dramatise how poorly socialised many of our children are. Too many of our children seem to believe that they must beg, overtly or otherwise, when they lack something or are dissatisfied with what they are given.
Furthermore, they fail to appreciate and make do with what their parents are able to afford. Instead, they want what their peers have, and they will stop at nothing to get same. Unarguably, such a conditioning is not entirely the fault of parents. Some parents do the best they can under the worse of circumstances, and they endeavour to inculcate good values in their children.
However, ever-lurking peer pressure is often more potent than any good parental upbringing. There are also children, like the little boys outside that KFC, who feel absolutely entitled to charity. And, if you do not meet their request, they will assail you with the dirtiest words.
What is more is that begging has grown so rampant that, at some schools, students have admittedly spat into their lunches in an effort to ward off potential beggars!
I will give, and I will encourage others to give, as there are people among us who do have genuine needs and would do well with some assistance. Sometimes, they may even become self-sufficient with a little help. However, let us ensure that we do not perpetuate a culture of wanton begging.
We must conduct a careful case-by-case assessment and then make a reasoned decision whenever those innumerable requests are made of us.
Whatever we do, we should not allow our children, especially, to believe that if they or their parents do not have it, dem must beg it.
Little one, be content with what little you have until there is more. Mommy and Daddy are doing the best they can.