When I exercise my dog, another approaches and explains he has been robbed and has no money for food or a place to stay.
In a grocery store parking lot, a woman comes up saying she has to get to Tampa and needs help raising the necessary funds.
A man rings my doorbell and states he’s a veteran wounded in one of our many wars and needs assistance with the rent for the current month.
The number of such incidents over the years must be in the hundreds.
We all have experienced them. How we react differs.
Some are disgusted. They don’t like the lack of cleanliness and believe only laziness and an unwillingness to work has created the current situation. Probably some truth here, but 22 years of volunteering at a suicide prevention and crisis intervention agency taught me it’s not the norm.
Others with some justification point out destructive actions such as the homeless sacking out in a business storefront or even urinating on it.
Some resent having their personal space violated.
Many have said they don’t contribute because the recipients will just use it to buy wine.
Others, more kindhearted, will purchase food and bring it to the person.
I have one friend who gives money and asks them to read a religious tract he gives them. I guess it couldn’t hurt.
As with everyone else, I agonize over how I should respond. I may not agree with how others approach the problem, but I’m sorry to say I understand where they’re coming from. Obviously, I can’t solve problems, and any amount I contribute is a drop in the bucket. So I give what little I can when I can.
It finally occurred to me that no matter a person’s demeanor or wine breath or implausible story or truthfulness, the individual accosting me had to be living, at least by my norms, a most unhappy life. How dare I offer some kind of judgement!
So I sometimes contribute for what is purported to be for food or towards a bus ticket, knowing full well the story they have spun is likely to be false and the money indeed probably will go to wine. It doesn’t matter to me. The pittance I give will be used in a way that satisfies some need in the recipient, and that’s good enough.
So when people complain about how any money given is wasted, I say, not always aloud, “So what!”
Occasionally, depending on my mood, I’ll attempt to initiate a conversation. Often they make no response and rush to intercept their next hope. That’s okay. But sometimes they’ll talk with me, telling me things about their history or how they are surviving. Many are truly decent human beings whose life stories have been tragic.
I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m some sort of good guy. Nothing could be further from the truth. I do my share of ignoring, turning my head so I don’t see. I don’t like it when I’m like that.
I hope in the future I’ll be more understanding of the plights of so many of my community who have not been as fortunate as I.