How do you handle it when you see homeless people on the corner, holding cardboard signs and staring with eyes devoid of hope at approaching traffic? I never know what to feel or what to do.
On the one hand, I'm hesitant to give them money, mainly because I think my money is better spent giving to an organization that helps people in these situations. There's also the logic of "What is my $10 going to change for them? Tomorrow they'll be right back out here, having to beg for money again." So by giving I've just delayed the inevitable.
And yet...I can't help but feel that if I were in their shoes, I would be most grateful if someone would delay the inevitable for me. My $10 doesn't solve anything long-term but it does stay away the hunger or alcohol withdrawal pains for a short time.
Usually what I do is to offer a smile and lower my head in embarrassment. I don't know why I feel embarrassed each time, but I do. I'm in my car with a full belly and clothes and money jingling in my change drawer. I have hope and love in my life. I offer a small prayer of love and protection for them and drive away. And--if we're being brutally honest--usually forget about them within 8 minutes time.
The only reason for this post is I saw a homeless person the other day and felt the guilt flood through me and thought, "This might make for an interesting blog discussion." I saw another person the next day and just yesterday passed a couple on the side of the road. They had a cute black and white mutt with them on a leash and a red bandana tied around his neck. That got to me. Homeless and trying to take care of an animal. If they'd been on my side of the street, I would have given them money.
I read a story years ago by some wealthy man--I can't remember who off the top of my head. But he was extremely well-known and wealthy and he came out of a speaking engagement one day and a young woman rushed up to him, crying. "My little girl is dying and an operation may save her but I don't have insurance and I don't know what to do. Please, can you help me?"
The man asked about the surgery and the woman gave him the details and the cost was something like $5,000-$10,000 dollars. The man gave her the money on the spot.
Later, he was telling his colleagues about the women. Their radar went up and they asked what she looked like. Turns out a woman matching the description of this woman had been running money scams in the area. His staff did some investigating and came back to him.
"She conned you," they said.
"You mean there's no little girl dying because she needs an operation?" asked the man.
"Nope. Sorry, but it looks like you were had."
The wealthy man breathed a sigh of relief and beamed at the group. "There's no little girl dying," he repeated. "That's the best news I've heard all day."
It's all in how you look at things, isn't it?