“don’t give a panhandler money! he’ll only buy drugs!” we’ve all heard this.
today i gave a hefty amount of money to the guy who always sits in front of my neighbourhood supermarket. the parking sign pole against which he was leaning was shaking because he was shivering so hard. i made him promise to leave for the night and watched him go.
while i completely believe that it’s everyone’s decision whether and what they give, i thought i’d tell you the reasons why i give money:
- it’s respectful. they don’t sit there to ask for food, they ask for money. most panhandlers are savvy; they know where the food banks and soup kitchens are. for one reason or another, they don’t want to go there. there’s something rude about someone asking for one thing and then giving her or him something else. when i ask to borrow your pen, you don’t give me a lighter either, do you?
- i don’t know whether the person is using it for drugs. having working with very poor people for a number of years, i’ve met numerous panhandlers who didn’t use it for drugs.
- even if they’re using it for drugs, they’re not going to stop using if i don’t give them money. even if nobody gave them money, they’d still not stop using. it’s like hoping that removing wine glasses will stop someone from being an alcoholic.
- even if they use it for alcohol or drugs – guess what, i (and you) support a lot of peoples’ bad habits. of the bankers, politicians and multinationals that make money from me, how many do you think spend money on cocaine? gas-guzzling SUVs? booze?
- panhandlers are micro entrepreneurs. i like the spirit of independence.
- panhandling is hard work. if you don’t think so, try it yourself. i respect hard work.
- there’s something honest about panhandling. the panhandler who just sits there quietly or asks politely for change doesn’t try to sell me a dream of a slimmer body, a happier child or better sex. it’s a straightforward kind of business. (btw, i can’t stand those frauds who try get money by telling me that they just arrived from calgary and all they need is a few bucks to call their ailing mother – i never give a cent to those scammers, only a growl)
- above all, agreeing to the exchange as it is proposed – the panhandler asks for money, i give it – gives the person and me a chance to interact as humans. the panhandler asks, i give, we both smile and exchange a few words. we connect, and we feel good.
what do you do?