Saturday, August 28, 2010

I Don't Know...

I saw a panhandler today. Not terribly unusual, but I can't shake it. He was standing just off a freeway exit with a sign that read: PLEASE HELP, HAVE KIDS, DESPERATE.

Typically, I pay -almost- no attention to panhandlers. Typically, I feel that little pang of empathy and proceed to look straight ahead, doing everything I can to avoid that person. Typically, I can remind myself that there are assistance programs for people in these situations and move on knowing that I contribute a little to those programs. Typically, I don't think about panhandlers after I've driven away.

This one is staying with me.

I'm not a softy when it comes to panhandling and begging. I'm really not. I had a terrifying experience downtown when I was followed by a one until I went into a -well lit and busy- mall. Feeling threatened in that way pretty much ended any empathy I may have had for that situation. But this man struck me. He was dressed nicely. Had I seen him in any other situation I would have thought, "I like that shirt." I did like his shirt. In fact this man strikes me as one that would have had 'it' together. He was dressed nicely, clean shaven, clear eyes. There was just such a disconnect between his image and what he was doing.

Of course I struggle with the debate of What'sTheMoneyReallyGoingToBeUsedFor vs. CharityAndGoodDeed. My general thought process is this: If this panhandler is really, honestly in need of money or food there are programs and assistance available. I also know that there is only so much help available and not everyone can get help whenever they need it.

My heart went out to this man today. He changed my perception of those who are in his position, even if they are doing it dishonestly.

Who am I to judge?

But the internal battle still remains: do you give to panhandlers and beggars?


Snell Family said...

I would rather give money in other ways, church contributions, charities, etc. There really are alot of places that help out with food/housing assistance. And in working with many of them with work if there are kids involved they work really hard to help them and make sure they're taken care of for the kids sake. So I have a hard time giving money to people on the street not that some of them don't really need it but there are other ways of getting help.

Amber said...

I agree with you and April! I would rather contribute to a charity than give them money directly.

When I was a senior in high school I worked at the Deseret News every Wednesday and there was always the same homeless man standing there when I exited the parking garage. He had a sign that said "Will Work For Food." So I started packing him a lunch and gave that to him instead of money. He always said Thank You and I like to think that he ate it but who knows!

Marci said...

I think you should go with your gut. This guy stood out to you and the your generosity won't go un-blessed even if he is choosing to take advantage of a situation. You know that not all panhandlers get to you that way, you had a connection with him and there is nothing wrong with changing up your "policy" based on each individual situation.
I think what your friend Amber did was AWESOME! He announced he needed food she provided. The guy today maybe had some specific need that you would have been able to meet.
In this day and age we have been programmed to usually think the worst of these people, I blame dateline and 20/20. Not everything is as we want it to be :).
Do I give to panhandlers and beggars? Not currently, there are days where I feel my time would be better spent holding a sign then that other work I am doing trying to make it :)

Rachel Sorber said...

I have to take each circumstance as it comes. Still, I've given plenty of food to people--whatever granola bar I've got stashed in the glove compartment or whatever. You can't use a granola bar to buy drugs! :) I think we're blessed when we have generous hearts, and give when we can, or wish we could give when we can't.

The Lambert Family said...

I sometimes give if I have extra $ on hand which is almost never. I never know what to do in those situations.

Ryan and Nikki said...

I usually don't give to them since I donate other ways like to United Way and church contrabutions but I do always wonder. I feel so guilty when I don't. I saw a pregnant lady the other day and that made me sick to my stomach. I was getting off the freeway and actually DIDNT have any cash otherwise I think that I may have.

Hansen Family Blog said...

Any time you give it will be blessed. Food is always a good idea because like was said before it can't be traded for drugs. In Argentina parents would send their children to do the begging for them, I would always give the kids food and make them eat it in front of me so that I knew at least they got something to eat that day. It is something that tends to stick with you and eat at you. I think the best lesson I learned is to give as much as you can to the programs that are there to help and that help the most people. Listen to the spirit and you can't go wrong. I am glad that you have a soft sweet heart.

Tyler said...

I know I'm late on this, but I just read it and it is something that I have strong feelings about. If you believe that people are generally good and not evil, and you feel that you should give to a person, then you should give. If you really believe this then you can walk away from the man believing that he took your dollar and bought his child dinner. People will try to discourage you from having faith, they will demand evidence of what you believe in, but faith is not based on external validation. Having faith in humanity is no different. I could go on, but I'll stop now.