Home » Features » Should I ‘Lend’ Money To Strangers?

Give with generosity, 
compassion and wisdom, 
[to be continued below…]

– Stonepeace | Books

If a stranger wants to borrow a little money for a bus ride, should it be lent, though s/he might not return it? Would it be selfish not to lend, since Buddhism teaches selfless compassion? Well, if the person did indeed use the word ‘borrow’, do ask how s/he intends to return the money. Since the money is little, and if the reply seems sincere, it is alright to risk ‘lending’. If the reply seems insincere, without promise of return date, it is best to move on, as s/he could be a serial liar.

While we should practise compassion, we should practise it with wisdom too, that does not simply facilitate others’ breaking of the Second and Fourth Precepts against stealing and lying. Allowing so not only personally creates negative karma, by being an ‘accomplice’, it also lets the person create negative karma – not just once, but likely in an ongoing way, due to increased confidence in being able to pull off the deceit. Mindless feeding of evil is also a kind of evil.

However, if one is an experienced con-(wo)man, it can be difficult to tell if s/he is genuinely in need of help. Still, one has to do one’s best to assess the situation to decide what best to do. In Singapore, there are not a few cases of those asking for a dollar or more for a ‘bus ride’ home. Some are repeat ‘customers’, which begs the questions of why they keep going out without enough for the ride back, and if they are amassing many small amounts as more are likely to give them.

Once, an able young man asked for money at a bus stop, without doing so verbally, as he gestured, suggesting that he cannot speak. With empathy, I unloaded all my coins to him, which amounted to quite a few dollars… However, some time later, he was spotted ‘cruising’ through a restaurant asking for money – verbally! In short, he was acting ‘dumb’ to solicit pity. When this was pointed out, his next act was to ‘act blur’, confused about the accusation, while moving to the next potential victim.

Since he was mobile, it was hard to report him to the police. I attempted to snap his picture, and summarise the past encounter to others around, to warn them not to fall for his tricks. When needed, out of compassion and wisdom for one and all, those without moral shame must be shamed, in a bid to awaken their sleeping conscience. What if he was truly poor and desperate? Well, conning on creates negative karma for more suffering, resulting in poverty and loss of trust!

In a contrasting experience, a feeble old man at a food court asked for money, for a meal. Seeing his clearly dirty clothes and even dirt in his nails, I decided that he really needed help. Still, not willing to be potentially conned, I suggested buying him a vegan meal. He agreed instantly. Directing him to the food stall, dishes were recommended and agreed upon. With a bowl of soup served too, he ate and drank heartily. As he never asked to borrow any money, I never asked for any returns!

[… as continued from above]
to ‘give’ away greed, 
hatred and delusion. 

– Stonepeace | Books

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