The little Gypsy girl
My heart broke this morning. While taking my dog for a walk I came across a Gypsy woman and her two children, who looked to be about 5 and 8. They were scavenging for food and bottles as they usually do, but instead of just looking in the dumpsters, the woman had her two little girls inside the dumpsters themselves, picking through the mixture of food and waste. It’s a scene I see almost everyday outside of my Window. A man and a horse, pulling a makeshift wagon with a woman and/or children, stopping at each dumpster looking for something of value. The thought of these little girls, who should be in school, but instead were inside a garbage dumpster, was hard to take.
The Gypsy problem is something I’ve noticed in every country I’ve been in while in Europe. The problem is not that they exist, it’s that no one seems to care. They are looked at as beggars and thieves. It’s akin to the homeless problem at home, but in that case there are social services, organizations, and at the very least, shelters to offer some support. I spent two years working at a homeless shelter in Boston, and the amount of programs, referrals for counseling, addiction, and basic needs is something that would surely benefit the Gypsy population out here. People care. I’m sure that there is more to the story, but as an outsider looking in, I just don’t see that here.
While living in Germany and Greece, I would often see Gypsy women and their children sitting outside of stores begging for money. They would be holding a sleeping baby and I would feel so sad for them and pull out any Euros I had. Anything to help I thought. Soon after, I read that many of those babies were actually drugged in order to make the begging easier for the women and enable them to beg longer without having to worry about feeding or changing the child. I read that the worst thing you can do is give money to these begging women and children because it encourages them to beg and keeps them out of school. There is also the uncertainty of whether the money actually benefits those families, or the men running the show behind the scenes.
With that in mind I refused to give money to this little Gypsy girl who is almost always outside of the supermarket I frequent. Her mother sits in the corner of the parking lot holding a baby (who is in fact sleeping whenever I see them), while her and her sister roam the parking lot begging for money. One usually goes from car to car while the other stands near the exit. They don’t wear shoes, their clothes are torn and dirty, and their eyes look so sad. The one who targets the cars looks to be about 8 and as a mother I want to pick her up, hug her real tight, and tell her everything will be okay. I know it won’t and it makes me want to cry.
I think she can sense this about me because once she sees me she will follow me around, not saying a word, only holding out her hand while staring me straight in the eye. It feels like she’s staring right through me and burning a hole in my heart. I would shake my head and say no and think of what else I could do for her. Would she want me to buy her some food from the supermarket? Maybe I can wait until my daughter has outgrown some of her clothes and offer them to her? Would she be offended if I did that? I’m not sure but it breaks my heart. After a few weeks of this I just couldn’t ignore her anymore and have started giving her money anyway, not knowing if the things I’ve read are true, but hoping they are not.
It’s getting cold now and I haven’t seen her for a week or so and I think about what she’s doing and whether she’s warm. I wonder if they take a break from begging during the winter months or if they’ve moved to a slightly warmer location. I’m at a loss for what to do, but that little girl stays on my mind.