We’ve all seen them before… Whether it be on the corner of a busy intersection, at the entrance or the exit of a shopping plaza, standing out among-st tourist locations, or mingling side by side with a cramped crowd of travelers at subway and bus stations at all over – panhandlers are just about everywhere! What I’m curious to know is, what do you do when you see someone asking for money? When you can’t avoid passing someone who says they are just asking for just a little bit of monetary help?
Some people just simply ignore the beggars, as some would call them, altogether. They look straight ahead and will try not to even glance at the person while passing by. Others will empty their car tray of coins and simply pass on whatever loose change that they can find. And then there are some curious fellows that may just stop and take the time to talk to some of these people – curious to why that person is in the situation that they are in, before deciding to hand out any money at all.
I’ve got to be honest, I’ve not always given money to panhandlers. But, when I have, I chose to believe that they needed it more than I did regardless of how they decided to spend the cash.
Not all panhandlers are honest, lets be real about that. The idea of someone actually pretending to be down on their luck just for a few dollars will stop a lot of kind people from helping others. And when I say pretending – I mean that they are not handicapped, are not poor, and will quickly manipulate others for what they want. I have heard and read countless stories of people making hundreds of dollars a day while begging for money, only to walk around a couple of blocks to a car newer than your own and drive home. It’s like a part time job – if you will.
There are also those people who aren’t honest about why they are begging for money. This scenario tends to also turn a lot of people off, as they feel duped into feeling sorry for them. A man can clearly be downtrodden and have no where to go, he can have a sign that says he wants to buy food to eat for him and his family, but then will turn around and will take his collected money into the corner store he was standing in front of all that time just to buy beer and cigarettes, or straight to a dealer to get high instead. I have also seen this happen with my own two eyes – once witnessing a woman parked in front of a local gas station calling people over and begging people for money from inside of her parked car. She told everyone who asked that her car was stalled but she was also parked at the storefront and not at an actual pump. When she decided that she had collected enough money, she got out of her car, proceeded to buy a case of beer, and then happily drove away.
There was also a time where a young guy approached me at a local Walmart parking lot. He gave me the whole sad story of him and his girlfriend and all of their kids needing something to eat. Now, at this time of my life, I was not in a position to help anyone but my own household. I can honestly say without being ashamed that I was even on food assistance myself, at the time. So, When I listened to him talk, I really felt his pain with what he was saying and felt obligated to help. I let him know from the jump that I did not have any cash but would love to get him and his kids something to eat off of my EBT card in Walmart. I offered him the opportunity to pick out whatever he needed no matter the price. Ya know what this guy did? He turned it down. He said he was sorry but he only wanted cash and quickly walked away. At that point I knew what that guy was really all about.
With all this said, I still choose to give to those who ask when I am able to give it. Every street person that you may encounter on the street is not faking it to make it. A lot of people out here truly need help. More people than you can imagine work day to day with a full time job and still struggle to put food on the table. Who am I to assume the worst all the time, and who am I not to show compassion to others? If I was in that position of really needing help, and I had absolutely no one else to turn to or ask, I would want someone… anyone, to truly show the same little bit of humanity to me.
If you do run into a panhandler and at the time you want to give but feel conflicted about it- the only way you may feel okay at all is if you learn a bit of their story. If this is your intention then don’t be shy, ask these people questions, be inquisitive, and trust your first instincts. If you don’t like the vibe that someone is giving you, walk away. And, if you do choose to give a few dollars to someone and then happen to regret it later, remember that life goes on for both of you – it’s not the end of the world. Don’t put yourself down for having a caring heart or extending your help to someone who didn’t deserve it. Your energy can be used on other positive ways of giving back as well – like volunteering your time to a shelter or hospital instead. It doesn’t always have to be about the money to help at all, so don’t ever give unless you really want to. People like you are who make this world a better place.
What do you think about giving money to panhandlers? Have you ever done it, why or why not? Drop a story in my comment section below. Thanks ya’ll! xx