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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Choosing Beggars

Updated: May 13


One of the only social media sites I frequent has a thread entitled Choosing Beggars.  The gist of what gets posted there are stories about ingratitude—typically of an amusing nature but sometimes so over the top as to merit a full stop, what the heck.  There are many examples of this one can spot in everyday life.  The person on Facebook Marketplace that asks someone giving away a free item if they would also deliver it is fairly typical. 


A twist on this was a recent post where a homeowner advertised a free above ground pool. All that was required was emptying and then dismantling the pool, disassembling and neatly piling the adjacent wood deck and grading the soil underneath.  But remember, it’s free.   Such posts along with requests for all manner of free items—late model flat screen TVs, the latest iPhones, and other desirable items are a commonplace find. It seems there must be a lot of folks who have no use for these items and are just waiting for someone to ask.


Pets are another fertile request—provided they are purebred, fixed, trained and come with collar, leash, bed and food. And it would be excellent if the previous owner could come over a few times a week and walk them as well. The justification from one poster was that they didn’t believe in buying a pet because “animals are priceless”.


A church placed a classified ad in a local newspaper advertising the availability of babysitters—noting they were all proper young ladies—rather than local teenagers.  The going rate, $93 an hour—but it’s tax deductible in its entirety because the church gets all the proceeds.  This really gives new meaning to Choosing Beggars.


A special class of posts come from so called ‘influencers’—folks who are self-appointed celebrities on Instagram or Tik Tok, who approach businesses to give them services and items for free in exchange for the promise of an endorsement on their social media feeds.  Sadly, there are a handful of folks who actually are offering a trade that has some value—as it seems they have enough followers-some number in the millions. One might view this as simply a form of new era marketing.  And indeed, this does appear to work for some—as it seems that there are enough folks who want to be just like the influencer they follow to copycat them at their own expense.  We are no longer living in an era of rugged individualism—it is the era of me too-ism.


I had my own brush with a few choosing beggars recently.  My email provider decided to exit the service turning all its accounts over to another provider.  Now granted it is a service that was provided as part of a bundle and not explicitly paid for by subscribers, so while it was inconvenient it allowed users to keep their email address rather than migrate to another free service like Gmail. Since my username on dozens of sites is my email address, I decided to forge on preserving it.  But I found that the new provider’s software did not play well with my computer.


After many frustrating hours spent with customer support folks who had no clue what to do and were simply repeating steps I had already tried, I found some obscure notes on a technical support page and lo, I was able to get everything working.  I figured that others might find themselves in the same straits, so I wrote a very detailed set of instructions and posted this on several forums in the interests of saving others from the same fate I had suffered.


I am happy to report that I have had dozens of expressions of thanks for sparing folks who had, like me, reached a point of absolute frustration—and I am truly glad I was able to help. But proving that no good deed goes unpunished I also got several messages from people who either did not follow the instructions or had some other issue.  Believing, I suppose, that in some way I was a representative of the email provider, I was subjected to verbal abuse and rants the likes of which were, in a few cases, particularly nasty. 


Now I have a thick skin most of the time, so my response was generally to the effect, I’m sorry you are having problem, have you tried this? Sometimes, I observed that the issue was one for which I had no solution.  You’d think that would be the end of it but no.  One woman kept abusing me over several days venting her spleen in technicolor despite the fact I had told her I was just another customer trying to help.


I imagine that there have always been Choosing Beggars in our world.  But I would add that there does seem to be a greater proliferation today than ever before. Please, thank you, and other civilities are less and less frequent—entitlement more prominent. I could lay blame at social media, the political climate, or other norms of the day, but I honestly cannot say why so many people feel that something is owed them—that the universe is under some obligation to meet their needs.


I was not raised to think that way.  Rather I start from the premise that whatever good fortune comes my way is a blessing I have not earned.  I am grateful, in a word.  I’d like to think that the majority of folks still feel that way too—and to be clear the positive experience I garnered by helping out my fellows in this rather small way far outweighed the nastygrams. Still, it left me with a slightly bitter taste—a sense that there has been a shift in our values as a society that does not augur well.  It is a rude surprise when we do not get what we want—worse yet when it is something we expect even though we have no right to do so.


The heart of this issue, it seems to me is a question. What do we deserve?  I put it to you, that some freedoms and rights seemingly guaranteed by our Constitution and not much more come with our citizenship.  Life itself holds no such warranties, it is a gift we neither earned nor are we able to fully repay beyond respecting our neighbor as ourselves, and that means we must never choose to be the kind of beggars that are so ungrateful as to believe everything in life is due us.

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