Ain’t too Proud to Beg?

The song, Ain’t too Proud too Beg* has been on my mind and I’m not happy with the dictionary definition of beg which says to earnestly or humbly ask for something. Begging is pleading with a sense of urgency and fervor. It’s been informed by 3 generations in my family. I begged for Captain Crunch cereal as a kid. I pleaded with flailing arms and legs, convinced Captain Crunch was magical and life changing. My mom, would give me the look of admonishment and sternly say, “stop begging, “ followed by a reminder, we take food down to the shelter where there are people with no food, stop begging.” The intruder my mom surprised was still holding the hatchet he used to break into our house. My mom screamed, fell to her knees and begged for her life, “please don’t kill me, I have two small children.” My plea for a cereal seemed meaningless sand trivial, begging is life changing. My grand gesture of begging was in sharp contrast to my grandfather,  who, barely able to move or speak, whispering for someone, or something to please end the pain. He was begging for death.

When do you beg? A very frustrated bus driver asked the passengers aggressively trying to board the bus, “Wait, I have to get the wheelchair passenger on first.” The driver lowered the wheel chair ramp and no sooner than it hit the ground, passengers shoved to board the bus. Incredulous and frustrated, the bus driver shouted, “Wait, I have to get this passenger on the bus before you board. We aren’t going anywhere until I finish so can you wait?” The driver pushed the chair up the ramp, strapped the chair in place and ensured the passenger was ok.  Then there was a small gesture. The woman in the wheel chair smiled, said thank you and handed the bus driver a tootsie pop.  I saw the initial look of the drivers face that went from what do I need this for , to the realization that the woman was acknowledging her help. The driver graciously took the candy and nodded.

My experience of ” beg” ranges from the trivial requests of a child or a matter of life and death.  Despite all the histrionics I associate with “beg,”  the action is more subtle. It can be a look asking for help, which keeping with the dictionary definition, is to earnestly or humbly ask for something. When have you begged? You make many choices everyday. When given an earnest and humble request, are you helpful and respectful?


 *The world premiere of Ain’t too Proud, the Life and Times of the Temptations is currently featured at Berkeley Rep and runs through October 22, 2017.

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