on my trek to work every morning, I pass an elderly woman sitting on the corner of a driveway with her hand out. she never says anything to anyone, and I won’t assume she’s homeless, although she is likely to be unemployed (observed by the fact that she is begging for money, and that the unemployment rate in Bosnia is between 40-60%). I realized today that I have walked past her everyday (minus the one day she wasn’t there and I sort of freaked out, only to see her perched half a block up the road) and I’ve never given her money. I think I’ve given money to a handful of “beggars” (I use that term loosely. not sure what to categorize people who are asking for money) in my lifetime. it’s more of a guilt thing… I feel strange giving money to some people and not others. on what basis do I give money? if I have it in my pocket? if I feel sympathy for their situation? right place/right time? if they don’t “look” like they are drug addicts? who I am to judge. so thus, I don’t have a standard; I typically don’t give.
but today I gave that woman 5 marks, which is the equivalent of $3.31 US dollars. what can 5 marks buy? 5 scoops of gelato, 1.5 kilos of chicken, 3 bottles of wine, 8 loaves of bread, an entire huge basket full of fruits/veggies (a kilo of potatoes is .5 marks, a kilo of nectarines is 1 mark). in the past 3 days I don’t think I’ve even spent 5 marks. sidenote, I am living meagerly since I’ve been here, due to some extreme complications with my student loans. so yes, 5 marks is meaningful.
and in all reality, those 5 marks could have made a bigger impact on someone’s life than my 6 weeks of volunteering at this NGO. you never know.