I have a sense of uneasiness towards those who take advantage of people by abusing their good faith.
I am particularly annoyed by those who try to cheat others by using old tricks; not so much, for example, the false discovery of some fake gold item which is offered to the occasional passer-by: this I don’t find upsetting, because it involves the bad faith of a person who buys something that should not be bought (the find should be returned to its legitimate owner); rather, I am upset by those who cheat elderly people by reporting unlikely messages from non-existent grandchildren, or those who beg for charity pretending to be crippled, and then sprint away happily at the first opportunity.
The neighbourhood where I live, in the vicinity of a hospital, is roamed by a lady of about forty, well kept, decently groomed, who in summer and winter approaches passers-by describing unlikely predicaments and asking for a contribution: she has lost her purse and needs money for a bus ticket, she has to sell a pack of tissues, she has to buy some mineral water for a hospital patient, and so on and so forth.
Though being a self-effacing person, by now she is known by the neighbourhood people, and is sometimes rejected with some rudeness.
The other day she tried to stop me in the street with a ridiculous pretext, and I hurried up on my way, to avoid answering back.
Maybe because it was so hot, in the empty street, I could not help thinking about it and I asked myself why, instead of making such an effort to come up with those childish little tricks, she did not follow the steps of so many others, and did not simply beg for money.
I could not find an answer immediately, but – risking to be run over by a car as I crossed the street – I started to make out the reason: out of dignity.
I drew myself a picture: a person of a certain age may have difficulty finding employment, particularly if she has had no specialised training, and – at the same time – she may find it humiliating to beg in the street. That is why she may have found a solution in these tiny frauds, where no big sums are at stake which may cause real distress to those who hand them out, but anyway allow her to survive.
Is this person taking advantage of people’s good faith? She probably does, but with such undisguised benevolence that, on reflection, she should not be blamed. The next time she approaches me, I will make as if I believed her, and I will help her.
This is what we should do: we should not take first appearances for granted, but try to understand the deeper reasons. Of course, it is easy to say! Caught up as we are in a myriad of chores and problems, we don’t usually have the time to dwell on every single issue. But what about trying?
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