Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hand Out or Hand Up?


We have a social situation that seems to be getting worse and worse in our town. We are seeing more and more beggars and panhandlers. I have a social dilemma where these people are concerned and am wondering if you feel it too. On the one hand I want to help and on the other hand it is upsetting. Let me explain.

I know that in the scriptures it says we should give to the poor. I am all for that and try to do that in a bunch of different ways. What I don't like is being approached in the grocery store parking lot which has happened to me several times over the past few months, or being approached at the gas stations which has also happened to me since gas prices skyrocketed in the past year.

I had a guy beg me for some gas as he approached me with a gas container. He told me he was just down the street and had run out of gas and that he needed just a little gas to get his car up to the station. He was nicely dressed, about 45 years old and looked like a guy in a tight spot. So when I finished fueling I let him put some gas in his container. My first clue that he was a swindler should have been the five gallon container he carried. So then he started engaging me in conversation and madly trying to fill up his container. Finally I caught on and said, "Hey, I don't mind giving you some gas but I am not filling up your entire $25.00 container! He then started in with the "God bless you mam, etc," without removing his hand from the lever on the hose. Finally I had to get nasty. He quit fueling and left singing my praises. I decided to follow him and found him putting the gas into his parked car that was in an adjoining parking lot of the store next door. I rolled down my window and told him how sad he was and how people like him made it very difficult for people like me to trust. I also told him how what he had done not only hurt him but people in my future who might truly be in need.


On the other hand there was a time when I walked by a guy sitting out in front of the post office asking for money and I walked past him and something told me to go back and give him money. I only had a 20 dollar bill so I gave it to him and it felt right. So what is the answer?

Yesterday the guy that approached me in the Safeway parking lot was actually working the area. After I refused him money he picked up a cart and proceeded to head back towards the store to find another person to hit up.

I guess the more annoying thing is all these things happened in broad day light in very nice areas. What the answer is I don't know ~maybe just taking it on a case by case basis and letting your intuition or the spirit guide you. I almost like the honest ones better like the guy in this picture saying he needs money for beer.

That settles it for me. No dice, buddy. But the ones where you don't know for sure...they are the disturbing ones. How do you handle it?


photos as seen on flickr

7 comments:

Laura said...

It's hard to know---I try to follow my gut instinct. I rarely carry cash either, so I don't have any in hand. I should probably always carry some cash on hand so I can help people when I feel prompted.

thE toKen aSian said...

Ok. This is a tough one. However, I try to give regardless- I wonder if sometimes appearances aren't what they seem. But, even if they are exactly that, maybe it makes me a better person to try to withhold judgment and assume they're at their best. It's not a perfect system, I still get annoyed and if I'm in a hurry, then sorry, maybe next time. I may change my mind about it all later, but this is me now.

Bonnie said...

I totally agree it is not about judging but honestly, over here you could be broke if you aren't at least discerning. I also do not carry cash often and that helps considerably.

Sara said...

I always feel guilty when I turn them down as they are sitting on the street asking for a handout. But I am very skeptical of beggars after seeing a 20/20 episode showing a beggar that made over $200000 a year...I am definitely in the wrong profession! My friends and I were on the Strip on Halloween and we passed several. My good hearted roomie, Cat, kept saying how bad she felt for them. We are all poor ourselves and didn't have any money to give to them...however we decided to share the Halloween goodies we had in our purses... fruit snacks, tootsie rolls, and mini oreos. They all seemed grateful for the handout, even though it wasn't money and we didn't feel so bad about just ignoring them as we walked by.

Sara said...

I always feel guilty when I turn them down as they are sitting on the street asking for a handout. But I am very skeptical of beggars after seeing a 20/20 episode showing a beggar that made over $200000 a year...I am definitely in the wrong profession! My friends and I were on the Strip on Halloween and we passed several. My good hearted roomie, Cat, kept saying how bad she felt for them. We are all poor ourselves and didn't have any money to give to them...however we decided to share the Halloween goodies we had in our purses... fruit snacks, tootsie rolls, and mini oreos. They all seemed grateful for the handout, even though it wasn't money and we didn't feel so bad about just ignoring them as we walked by.

Bonnie said...

Those of you that have been to Rome have probably seen those old ladies shrouded in black that lie down practically (in the praying stance) along the cobblestone road between
the Colosseum and the Forum...they break my heart. I know they do not make $200,000 per year. But maybe some do. A real social drama and dilemma!

Sal Gal said...

This is tough because we give a lot in fast offerings, you make some good points though. Tom and I say if we have cash and see someone in need, we give. We've never regretted it but I think it should be an inspired thing also. I have been the recipient of kindness and at that moment it was my miracle, truly an angel sent in answer to a prayer. If you would like to know the details I will email them to you, it's a cool story. Overall I think you won't be punished for giving. :)