beggars and restaurants

January 5, 2011

Yesterday was our 2 year anniversary. Yes, congratulations is in order. Since we moved closer to Pretoria inner-city this year, and are now living in Arcadia, everything which does not involve our jobs are an adventure in discovering a new world at the moment. Yes, we’ve visited the city many times over the past years, whether for leisure, with church-outreaches, or exploration (and Maryke worked in the inner-city for a few weeks 2 years ago), but it’s different now. The words of Bilbo literally make sense for us: “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door”. Walking out our front door confronts us with a world which we don’t know the rules of.

So, we intentionally chose to celebrate out anniversary in a way which would contribute to this discovery. At this point my more excitedly missionary friends might be disappointed because I didn’t spend my anniversary with the homeless of the city, and my more middle-class-and-happy-to-be-so friends might be relieved that I didn’t confirm the fears they had of what I might be busy with, but we simply went to this quaint little restaurant, 2 blocks from where we live, which we found interesting before moving here. It’s called Taras Bulba Steakhouse. Nice place. Love the old black man that waiters the whole place, and by the look of it has been doing this job for many years, and does it real well.

Upon exiting we were confronted by a local beggar. Obviously starting out with the words: “I don’t want any money, just something to eat”.

I guess this is what you get when not going to malls: no one keeps the beggars away. Maybe this is part of the task of our malls and shopping centers: to make sure that you can get from the shop to the car without anyone reminding you that the middle class existence is not shared by everyone.

Obviously the idea of waiting till we were exiting the restaurant and then asking for food was planned. One might even call it manipulation, and maybe the world does fit what was happening. But is this wrong? Is it wrong that I am reminded of the fact that in this country some will go to bed hungry right after I’ve consumed my T-bone. Is it my right to live in a world where I can clear my roads of reminders of reality? Or is it the right of beggars to remind us of the reality in which we live? Or did I make the choice to be reminded of this reality when I chose Taras which opens onto Hamilton street, rather than the Spur in *** *** where numerous security guards would have made sure that this meeting would never happen?