Beggars at the Banquet

Dave, a psychology student, decided to run a little social experiment on which to base his thesis. With his college professor's blessing, he found three homeless beggars living on the streets, each of whom claimed to be temporarily down on their luck. All they needed was someone to give them a chance. The student took them off the street for a week – dressed them in fine clothes, put them up in a five-star hotel, wined them and dined them and made sure they were treated like royalty. At the end of the week, he returned them to the street with their new clothes, a list of support services, and a hundred dollars in their pocket, but otherwise exactly as he had found them. Six months later, he looked them up again.

The first beggar refused to speak to him - seemed to hate him in fact – and lived exactly as he had before they'd met, begging on the same street corner with his 'work for food' sign. The other two beggars couldn't be found at all. Dave asked around and finally learned that one of the men had committed suicide. For a long time he searched for the third beggar but finally gave up. Saddened by his experiment, Dave berated himself for meddling and concluded he had done these three men a terrible disservice. He nearly threw his notes in the trash in despair, but his professor insisted that he write the truth, and keep working, and so he did. He finished his masters degree and was debating whether he should go on to get his doctorate, when one day while walking downtown, to his shock, a well-dressed executive approached him and grabbed him in a big bear hug. It was the third beggar. The man had gone back to school and now lived the kind of life Dave had once shown him.

All he had done was expose these men to new possibilities. What they had chosen to do with that awareness had been entirely up to them. Dave decided to get the doctorate. He already knew the topic of his thesis.