by Bryan Bennett
Bremerton, Washington, USA


Most people, I think especially Americans, never fully realize just how poor some people are in the world. We see the advertisements on TV for organizations asking for our help in feeding children in poor countries. This has nowhere near the same effect as going to one of those countries and seeing the poor for ourselves.

I had the opportunity to witness firsthand how some people live when my work sent me to Thailand. Thailand has technology, and some people have considerable amounts of money, but many are very poor or disabled and forced to beg for money on the street. Businesses there are not inclined to give jobs to sick or disabled people. They fire those who can’t do the work because they can always replace them with someone who can.

I didn’t have time to get to know Nok very well, but what I did learn about her will stay with me for the rest of my life. When we met, Nok was twenty-something. She had two young kids and an extended family whom she helped support. She made just enough money to pay for childcare, a place to live, food on the table, and possibly an occasional splurge for a nice piece of clothing or toy for the kids. By Thailand’s standards, she made an above-average income, but she was by no means rich.

It was a huge surprise to me to see this exceptional woman do her part to help those in need. We were walking down a fairly busy street when we came upon a beggar. Nok stopped, got some money from her purse, and put it in the beggar’s cup. Fifty feet on there was another beggar, and she stopped and gave money to him, too. She stopped to give money to every single beggar we passed.

I give money to people on the street once in a while, but it’s nothing compared to what Nok gives. A woman with very little gave what she could to every person less fortunate than herself. I felt bad that I had not been the first to stop and help these people. I’ll never forget that day. Now when I pass someone on the street asking for money, I no longer try to look the other way. Instead, I remember that I have many blessings in life, and a little spare change can make a world of difference to someone who does not.

Originally published as HeroicStories #164 on Aug 1, 2000
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 2.

3 thoughts on “Nok”

  1. I agree many are in a difficult position but: I find it hard to justify giving to a person in a full length leather coat. I also have to wonder about the person that got out of a recent model car parked on a side street and then went to the median of a busy road and held up a sign for help. How do I tell the real needy from the fakes? It has turned me against most all of them.

  2. It is much easier to give to “beggars” in other countries than it is here in the US when we don’t know their stories. Here we become jaded from all the television stories of con artists and those who are addicted and our contribution to those addictions. In the end, it depends on our compassion and willingness to help – whether it is through donating to food banks and homeless shelters, or giving change to someone who asks. And to help me with this decision, I always ask “If this were me or one of my children, how would I want other’s to respond?” A good reminder is always appreciated. Thank you for this story.

  3. When traveling in India, I was always uncertain what to do when a group of children would approach the car I was in to beg while it was stopped at a traffic light. My understanding has always been that there’s some adult who’s forcing them to beg, and will take everything I give to them. I finally hit on the idea of calling over the coconut seller to give each child some coconut, freshly cut and ready to eat. Unfortunately, that came to me while on the plane ride home.
    Here in the US, I’ve tried to carry out that idea nonetheless. I can’t tell if someone is just going to drink or buy drugs with any cash I give them.
    For a while, I’d carry an energy bar to hand out — they’re small and keep well so I could have them with me always. Then I met a guy begging who told me he’d heard about me — “the Clif Bar guy”, he called me. Then he showed me how his teeth were rotted out and he literally couldn’t bite into or chew an energy bar.
    Now I try to carry a clean pair of socks to hand out. Fresh socks are always needed at any time of year.
    It helps me remember that these are people, just like me, and they’re in need, and I can help.


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