Pakistani Bums Don't Just Want Beer

I'm from Lahore, Pakistan. The city doesn't share much with Miami, but my mind returns to my hometown whenever I come across a beggar here. There are many in both places.

The modus operandi in Miami is strikingly different. A smart-looking, big man at a traffic signal near downtown recently caught my attention. Dressed in a red T-shirt and blue shorts, he carried a placard that read, "Why lie? Need beer."

The man walked around cars that had stopped while the signal was red. He didn't speak a word and disappeared onto the sidewalk as soon as the light turned green.

Another homeless guy I saw during my stay in Miami is Pedro R., whom I met near NE 15th Street and Biscayne Boulevard. He didn't beg, but asked for some help with "expenses." He often slipped into Spanish while speaking and showed little interest in requesting people give him money. Rather, he said, he believes in just sitting at a fixed place; passersby will help him on their own.

In Lahore, most of the beggars roam around shrine areas and loudly say, "Give some money in the name of God." Or sometimes they intone, "Help me, and God will take care of you." Then there's the good old, "Take pity, and God will prolong your life and health."

Instead of carrying placards or sitting silently at a specific spot, they approach every person and put their hand out for money. Often they try to attract you with charming prayers. Without even thinking, you pat your pocket, take out some coins, and give it to them.

Rehmat Bibi, a beggar in Lahore whom I have long known, once told me that she judges a person's personality and then prays accordingly that the person will provide some money. "If I see a middle-aged man, I will say, 'May God bless you with yours kids' success.' Seeing a young lady, I will say, 'May God keep your beauty evergreen.' And seeing an old person, I will say, 'May God bless you with health and peace.'"

She adds that it really works if you click the right "wish button," which is fitted in every human being.

Though the ways of begging vart in different parts of the world, one thing that all beggars believe in is the following: "It is a beggar's pride that he is not a thief." 

I urge you to find a nearby beggar and try out your goodwill!


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