Definitions can sometimes be more than just an academic pursuit. Here's an Instant Message conversation I had last night...
Do you know what a panhandler is?
Somebody said it the other day, in a discussion, and I don't know what it means.
and you didn't look it up?
someone who begs, sorta
I've been a little busy....
so the guy with the starbucks cup that you walked by last month, feeling guilty about not giving him money, but intellectually moral about not supporting non-workers and scam artists - that guy was a panhandler
unless you're not that kind of person
which you likely aren't
I haven't seen any beggars since the last time I was in DC, which was awhile ago
and no, I'm not that sort of person
beggars would seem to be a dilemma
but they really aren't
seeing a beggar does funny things to people who usually are kind
a term like panhandler allows us to give them a negative connotation
as if it's a profession
and we really shouldn't give
The only really right thing to do with a beggar is take them home with you and feed them and let them sleep in a bed and stay until they are well again
If I ask myself if I would actually do something like she suggested, I would have to say no. My focus on academics, my focus on writing helps me glide through a sad world, perhaps even take special notice to the hurt and pain of others, but come up with an excuse merely to portray it. I focus intensely on my work, often ignoring others because they distract my efforts.
It makes me think of Yosuke Yamahata, one of the few to take photographs when the atomic bomb fell on Nagasaki. (warning for the squeamish. Disturbing photos) We only have a few photos of the Hiroshima bomb blast. But we have over sixty from Nagasaki, thanks to Yosuke. (in print: Nagasaki Journey, Photographs of Yosuke Yamahata)
Yosuke's photos remind us of the horror of our own weapons. They remind us never to use them. They have served a good purpose.
But then we look at photos of the children. One of them remembered the photographer Yosuke. He begged for aid. But Yosuke kept moving, as in a trance. His only focus was photographing. And the photographs are brilliantly done. He was a good photographer.
For Yosuke, he calls his actions "perhaps unforgivable", but we can spare him blame. He claims that shock at seeing the carnage kept him from helping, or knowing how to help. So he just snapped photographs.
I have no such easy excuse.