5 marks of gratitude

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.


2 thoughts on “5 marks of gratitude

  1. Nora Canty

    It is a tough call to give aid, especially when the circumstances are unknown. I think here in Portland, giving money to street people is frowned upon by the authorities. I think Susan did it right when approached by a woman; she offered to escort her to the nearby store and bought her groceries of her choosing. Of course, your experience was totally different. It would be interesting to know whether the woman might have acknowledged you with a smile, or whatever, when you next passed her.

  2. Amy

    That is always a hard decision. Should we feel guilty for not giving to “beggars”? I’d say no, but it’s hard not to at times. Funny story for you…

    When Mike was trekking in Patagonia, his friend Andres (have you met him?) was sitting on the curb outside of a store while Mike went in to get something. He was looking pretty scrub-like from spending a week in the wilderness and had a walking stick in his hand. Well, this old lady walked by and handed Andres some money…she must have thought he was homeless! So, goes to show you that you really do never know.

    Can’t wait to hear all the details about your trip over a cup of coffee:)


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