When you walk down the street and get stopped by a panhandler, what do you do? If you are like most people, you rush by as quickly as possible, avoiding eye contact. You don’t feel that person deserves any of your money, but you’re slightly embarrassed at your unwillingness to part with a few cents, so you don’t want to look him in the face.
A stream of judgements passes through your mind. He’s just going to by boos with it. It’s his own fault he’s on the position he’s in. He’s living off the welfare my tax dollars pay for, why should I give him anymore? He should get a job like the rest of us!
Now, some of these things may be true, and in some cases I’d say all of them might even be true, but personally, I don’t think it should matter. The only thing that truly matters is that even panhandlers and beggars are human beings just like you and me, and desire and deserve the same basic respect that all thinking, breathing, feeling beings need.
When I am approached by a panhandler I always give some money if I have it. The only time I do not is when the person asking is rude or obviously deceitful. For instance, I once had someone approach me reeking of alcohol and sweat, and tell me he was an architect who had locked his blueprints in his car and needed money for a locksmith. He cornered me on the street and treated me to nearly five minutes of lies and then asked for money. In this case I chose not to give any. Most of the time, however, I find the homeless people who ask for help to be polite and grateful and nearly always offers thanks and “God Bless”.
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I never consider what they might do with it, it’s not my concern. I don’t condescend to them and offer to buy them a sandwich. Why take away more of the precious little dignity they have? I have the power to brighten someone’s day, and have my own day brightened in return. Of course I know that there is a chance this person is a low-life who will simply buy cigarettes or drugs with it, but there is a greater chance that this person is mentally ill and in need, and unable to cope with the world. They could be someone’s mother or father, and husband or wife, and they are certainly someone’s child.
Sometimes I will pass someone on the street and be tempted to hang on to my change. Maybe I am low on funds and don’t feel like I can spare. I remind myself that that is nonsense, and that one, two or even ten dollars isn’t even going to be noticed by me next week, let alone in a months.
I can give. I can afford it.