Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Sense of Entitlement

I'm back in good old Canada, and happy to be here. I missed my friends. Home really is where the heart is. I guess the real beauty of travel is that it gives you a sense of perspective. It allows you to look outside the patterns you have grown accustomed to and see it with new eyes.

One image that will be stuck with me forever is that of the homeless in Prague. There weren't that many - only 4 or 5 in the five mile radius that we traversed from day to day in the old town (Stare Mesto). The streets in Stare Mesto are covered in rough cobblestone. The homeless there would kneel, motionless on these cobblestones for hours at a time, face down against the stones, arms outstretched with a cup in their hands. I could only imagine the pain they experienced in this position, and tears filled my eyes many times as I looked at them. I don't know, maybe this was some elaborate scheme to earn free tourist dollars, but I don't think so.

These men - and they were all men, looked like they were doing penance. They looked ashamed to be begging for money. In fact, they would not even look up when I put change in their cups. I never saw anyone's face. They would only mumble something, and bob their heads up and down against the cold stones as if in prayer.

I can't say that I know too much about the culture there, but I think that these people really had no other alternative...unable to work, and with no families to take care of them, they resorted to begging. And they are ashamed that they cannot contribute. They are ashamed that no one cares enough to love them. And so they kneel on those hard, cold stones. They beg for change. They beg for respect. They beg for love.

I couldn't help but contrast it to Canada, where the young homeless man outside my local Tim Hortons tried to place an order for an iced cappuccino with me, as I entered the store. We have such a sense of entitlement here, like we are owed everything and anything...we take and take and take without contributing, and we feel that it is owed to us.

All I can wonder about this guy is, "Why doesn't he feel ashamed that he is not contributing? There is nothing wrong with him."


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