A feast for the less fortunate during Thanksgiving. Photo courtesy of csmonitor.com
The other day I was at a bus stop when a young man approached me and asked if I could spare him a dollar so he could get something to eat.
Being that I live in Los Angeles, CA, the homeless capital of these United States, such interactions are very commonplace as if you are out and about in L.A. on a regular basis, you can expect for the less fortunate to ask you for money.
I reckon roughly 98% of folks, out of compassion and conscience, give money to the panhandlers when asked.
While I have much compassion thanks to Jesus being my Lord and Savior, my way of helping those unfortunates are a tiny bit different.
Though I have given money to those I see living on the street, sometimes without them asking, there’s another way of helping them that I much prefer – and which I did for this particular young man…
To be brutally honest, I have never really felt comfortable giving cash to people on the street, for this reason:
You never know if they are going to use the cash to buy food, like they always say they are, or if they are going to use that money to buy alcohol, drugs or even cigarettes.
Am I saying that all panhandlers use the money given to them to get drunk, get wasted, or pollute their lungs and ours with tobacco smoke? Absolutely not!
What I’m saying is, you don’t know if they are.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t want to enable those bad behaviors, behaviors that (for booze and drugs) may well have led them to being in that less fortunate situation.
No, I am NOT saying that all homeless are there because of booze or drug problems as I’m well aware that there are many young people on the street who are runaways or (worse) throwaways, but still…
Anyhow, fear of enabling is the reason why I did this for that young man who asked me for a dollar…
RATHER THAN GIVE HIM MONEY, I BOUGHT HIM FOOD.
I took him to a CVS store across the street and bought him an ice cream bar, which of course he was quite grateful for.
That’s how I prefer to help panhandlers and the homeless as I have promised myself that whenever someone asks me for money, I always ask if they’re hungry, which I’ll expect them to answer in the affirmative.
Then I tell them, “I’ll be happy to buy you something to eat.”
That’s when I go to whatever convenience store or fast food place is nearby – I once bought someone in a wheelchair a bag of potato chips and a banana from a 7-Eleven when he asked me for some change – and buy something for them.
It cuts out the middle man and more importantly…
It guarantees that your money will TRULY help that person, rather than possibly feed his alcohol, narcotic, or nicotine habit.
Of course if you want to give panhandlers your money, by all means do so; it’s not my intention to tell anyone how to do good.
But the bottom line, at least for me, is that it’s better for me to actually buy food and drink for panhandlers and the homeless rather than give them my change and risk enabling them.
Plus it obviously helps them in the long run.
Which is all any decent person wants to do.
Enjoying a meal during what I’m sure was some holiday. Photo courtesy of rt.com