What goes through your mind when you see someone begging?

Answer by Rory Young:

Very vivid memories.

The first of a filthy old beggar sitting on the pavement holding out a bowl and one of my sixteen year old classmates taking a run up and kicking it out of his hand. I have never felt so ashamed to be in company of another human being in my life.

The second memory is of standing in the icy rain in Boulogne in France and asking a truck driver for a coin to make a phone call. I was seventeen years old and my friend and I had not slept for five days.

We had been hitching lifts and begging meals or coins all the way from Marseilles after arriving there from Corsica. Wearing only T-shirts and jeans, cold and wet, our spirits were at their lowest. Now we stood at the English Channel and were stuck. Our only options were either to stow away on a truck heading onto a ferry or try and call my friends family to come and get us. The coin I was asking for was to make that call.

The English trucker gave us a coin and we thanked him profusely. We tried to make the call and failed to get anyone on the line. We would later discover that they were away. We were too exhausted to even try and sneak onto a boat. We were broken.

A short while later we were on a bench in an open waiting area and I just ran out of juice. I passed out or fell asleep on the bench and woke soon after because I couldn't stop my body from shaking violently. The trucker who had given us the coin, and another, were standing there and tried to help me. They asked us who we were and what was going on. I told them.

A few hours later we were sitting in the warm lounge of a ferry. The truckers had smuggled us on board in their trucks.

Once we were on our way they ordered us full English breakfasts and coffee. I was about to try and get into the UK without a passport and as a non citizen or resident, and had no idea what I would do or where I would go if I did get in. Still, I felt better than I had in a long, long time. The two truckers had no reason to help us and could have gotten into big trouble for doing so yet they did. That gave me an incredibly good feeling and brought back my confidence and determination.

So, whenever I see a beggar, I always think back and wonder what would have happened if I had approached a trucker for a coin who had the same attitude as my old classmate.

Anyone can end up desperate and needing to ask for help.

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