There is an ancient, perhaps apocryphal story in the Christian tradition of Martin of Tours, who was riding outside an unnamed city gate on a cold and windy night in the 3rd century when he came across a cold and starving beggar. In a gesture of compassion that would win him sainthood hundreds of years later, Martin divided his cloak and dinner, giving half to the destitute man.
Playwright Berthold Brecht raises this haunting issue in 1939’s Mother Courage and Her Children: What if instead of one cold and starving beggar, there were a hundred? What does the ethical traveler do? With tens of thousands of desperate refugees knocking at Europe’s door, this is no longer a philosophical quandary, but rather, a life-and-death issue of a multitude of cold and starving people seeking survival.