By Jonathan 6 Comments

Being Kind Because You Can, You Can Afford It

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”.

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.


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  • Jonathan says:

    Well Jendeis, I’m not going to say they aren’t true, but stories like that reek of urban legend to me. First of all, tha vast majority of people on the streets are suffering from some kind of mental illness ot trauma, and I think it’s unlikely they would have the capacity to save for a retirement, either mentally or logistically.

    Secondly, the streets are not a pleasant place to be, anyone who was just simply lazy and wanted to retire without ever working would hopefully have the good sense to go to the Caymens early on in life and beg for money there ;-)

  • Jendeis says:

    A very thoughtful post. What about those stories of panhandlers who choose not to have jobs, not to have homes and wind up retiring in the Caymans on the money they have collected? I’m not sure if any of those stories are true, but they are very disturbing to me.

  • Jonathan says:

    Thanks for all your comments.

    Jordan, I am not in the states, I am Canadian, and I am not familiar with “The Big Issue”. Could you explain what it is?

  • I agree with Alicia.

    The guy who ran the ‘Big Issue’ (do you have that in the states?) went on record saying that people should NOT give money to homeless people.

    If they are selling the Big Issue – then by all means buy it – but don’t give them money that they can spend on drink and drugs….

  • Andy says:

    I’m visiting here from NCLM. I wish more people had your outlook on this! Most of us don’t realize that we are only one illness and a few pay checks away from being homeless ourselves. I can only hope that if I’m ever in that position that there will be kind strangers like you on my street!

  • Alicia says:

    Interesting post! I have worked and volunteered a lot with the homeless population. I also hate how people treat them as invisible. My friend and I also did our own research and became homeless for a weekend, and having people walk by me, pretending I was not there was so hurtful and so painful.

    So when passing a homeless person on the street I say hi, I let them hold my hand if they want too, but I do not give them money. Our city has many many resources for them, free food, activities and lodging. Which I think is great and needed, so this money will no doubt be going towards their bad habits and I would much rather walk over with them to the shelter and do some art, play a game, share a meal then give them change!

    But I think its great that you are speaking about this issue and taking a different perspective then most!

    take care

    here from NaComLeavMo