Do you give your spare change to panhandlers?

So, anyone who reads here often knows that I have a small vice for slobbery-sweet Americanized Chinese food, preferably deep-fried, dripping with MSG. Hey, what can I say, it's my only vice. (Right, and I have a bridge in New York State for sale.)

Anyway, when I need to get out of the office and decompress for 30 minutes, I head to the Panda Express, maybe once a month. While I was getting into my car yesterday with by booty (my food, not my arse - although I had that with me as well), I was accosted, as I am in different situations about once a month or so, by a panhandler.

He was a native American Indian, who explained his plight in coming here from North Dakota, and now not having enough money to get back or find anything to eat, for that matter. He asked if I could help him out with some money to help buy him some food.
There are people out there who would have taken this person and bought him some lunch and sent him on his way. I am not typically one of those people. I did, however, give him the change I received from paying for my meal.

Now, before you go all postal on me, let me explain: I gave it to him, not FOR him, but FOR myself.

You see, I'm not STUPID (quiet down, people), I know where that money goes. I know it walks two blocks down the street to the 7-11 beer cooler or the liquor store. I know it goes to the dealer, or whatever. That's why I don't hand over a five dollar bill.

Perhaps I am selfish, but I give away my spare change because it helps me remember how fortunate I am. Life is hard, believe me, I know. Been there, done that. It seems sometimes that I (and maybe more of us than we would care to think) am not far from being there more often.

It keeps me grounded and humble, I think of my own kids, hoping that they will be able to do the things they need to in order to get security in their lives. I do it to help me remember how hard I need to work to make sure that my family is cared for. I have responsibilities, many of them, and I am fortunate to be where I am today. I am where I am today because of people who have handed over their spare change to me, figuratively speaking, when it has been needed.

Over the last year or so, I have been in the fortunate position to be able to help out a couple of family members who have needed bailing out. Although the people were different, I did it in response to the bailing out I was in need of in earlier times.

I gave some financial support when it was needed, and when times were better for those people, they approached me about paying me back. My response to them was that they should simply watch for other deserving people in their lives, and when/if the need arises, reserve that "payback" money to actually "pay it forward" to someone who was in need. All I asked of them both was that they send me a note to tell me what they had done to help someone else in their lives, and that they then tell that new person to do the same for someone else in the future.

The movie of the same name was inspiration for this thought. In both cases this concept was met with novel interest, and thankfulness on both parts.

Why do I write this here? I certainly don't seek to put myself on a pedestal or bring any kind of notice to myself. It is simply just to state that the satisfaction my wife and I have received from this has been very nice. Both of us feel fortunate to live the way we do, sure there are stresses, and we aren't independently wealthy by even the most wild stretch of the creative mind, but we are thankful. Thankful for people around us who have helped us, thankful to be able to help, thankful to be able to give examples to kids of what it means to truly have "Christian" values.

We try to show the kids that going to Church does not a Christian make.
If I can pass along ANYTHING to my kids, and others around me, it's that concept right there. So, yes, I do give change to people who ask, most of the time. It reminds me. It gives me perspective. "There but for the Grace of God go I."


Reach Upward said...

Call me hard-hearted, but I do not give money to panhandlers. I feel abundantly blessed, and I give (at least what I feel to be abundant) time and resources to a variety of concerns, both institutional and personal. I prefer to go out of my way and give my time to those in need rather than giving them my spare change.

I have had the opportunity to see inside the decrepit lives of a few people that panhandle, and though I want to help them, I do not want to encourage or support their self-destructive behaviors. I still feel badly about regularly helping a neighbor years ago in the scummy apartment building where we lived haul packs of beer up the stairs to his apartment because his muscles were too wasted from alcoholism to do it himself.

sarahbellum said...

my rule is change, and change only. no bills are passed through my hands. i've taken a couple inside a grocery store and bought them food, however, i won't hand over more than a dollar in change. i save that for other donations, um...like my current blog post. yes, i'm shameless, i know...

for what it's worth said...

Pay it forward is perhaps the most beautiful concept we have had the pleasure of learning.
And our daughter at 15 got to see it in plentiful action when she witnessed the self-less gift of 100 bicycles given to the choir they brought here from Africa, as a gift of kinship with another choir in B.C.
All this fortune was given with the "Go and do good work when you get home. Tell those you meet that Canada cares"
Gotta love it! And although I don't give as much money as I should, I try to give as much time as I can. I hope I can make the world a better place for others...in a Christian way.

Rob said...

I always give and never worry where it goes. When asked I give, if I have some change or some bills, and I never look back. Call me stupid, call me whatever, but thats my truth.

That One Guy said...

Thanks all for your thoughts.

two of you mention the thought of being hard-hearted or stupid.

I say not so. As Bob says, you have to march to the beat of your own drummer, look to your compass, and not depend on someone else's.

And that, friends, is the entire, and whole, point. As I've said very pointedly before.

That One Guy said...

And Rob, good luck in your campaign. We're counting on you.


No pressure.