Recently, I’ve read a number of posts that discussed whether or not one should give to people on the street with their hands out. I have my own thoughts to share on this.
On a business trip to Chicago, in the late 80’s, I passed by a number of homeless people, each time I’d pull out a dollar and hand it to them. The guy I was with asked me how I could hand a dollar to every homeless person I passed. I looked him in the eye and said that to me it was remarkable that he could walk past so many homeless and not reach into his pocket even once.
Years after that, I heard this story. There are two men of the cloth (pick a religion) and as they pass a homeless man, one of them hands him a dollar. The second man says, “I donate to organized charities, I won’t give the street beggars money for fear that one on them will buy alcohol or drugs with it.” The first man responds, “I understand your position, but you see, I give a dollar to every man with his hand out in the hopes that one of them will spend it on food.”
For me, part of giving to the person on the street is certainly for the good feeling it gives me. Donating to an organized charity is great, and I do that in a fair amount, but it’s also a good feeling to not walk by someone asking for a handout. In the big picture, handing over a dollar or two isn’t going to hurt me, and sets an example for my 11 year old. We have an annual New York City visit coming up and she’s already told me she plans to use her allowance from the last few weeks so we can take turns helping out.
What is the image above? A platter that my wife got me last year. When I lived in the city (I left NYC 25 years ago, but if I can steal a delivery style from Kanye West “New York is the greatest city of all time.”) one of the things I loved the most was Broadway. Even as a young man I was always impressed by the juxtaposition of the theaters, then selling $100 tickets, and the people on the street with their hands out as soon as you stepped outside. These are the singles I accumulated over the past couple months, so I don’t have to make change for the city. I hope to bring back a story or two from our trip.