Children who beg at traffic lights

Begging or Busking?

The first time I saw Lenny – as I shall call him – was when he appeared at my car window at the traffic lights. Lenny busks along the solid white road marking, moving about or stopping to  serenade to motorists stopping at the red lights.  He is about 12 years old and he is super-confident. This entrepreneur has his own trade tool, a guitar of sorts. The guitar is a 40 cm piece of driftwood with three strings of gut and a dented, white, empty 20ml juice bottle at the end.

Then you hear the 3-line song from the busker who looks you straight in the eye. The song is timed to perfection to allow Lenny to woo more than one motorist who is forced to wait for the green light.  My chuckle at this feisty young boy topples into laughter when I hear the key refrain “ en nog ‘n twee rand vir my” (and another R2 for me). He had his bottom line sorted – no copper coins here for his talent. I was seriously tempted to part with my R2 when my inner voice reminded me not to give street children money. “They use it for drugs”, they say.

I must say I admired this beggar boy. He has all the qualities that we need to survive today. He is creative, resourceful, confident and he knows how to be a good salesman: offer the customer something of value to get him to part with his money. 

But here-in lies the rub. Why are we allowing our children to earn their keep?  Lenny should be showcasing his talent in a safe, nurturing environment created by adults and not dicing with his life on the busy streets. We are going to pay dearly for introducing our children to a sophisticated model of begging if we don’t do things differently in our communities.


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