Monday, August 24, 2009

To give or not to give?

I had an experience two days ago while I was busking at the farmer's market, and I'd like your opinion on what you think is the correct course of action.
I was busking at the downtown market with my flute and an open case of money at my feet. I had been playing for about 45mins and so a fair amount of money had accumulated. As I was taking a break, a homeless man approached me and asked if I could spare some change. He seemed sober (and I couldn't smell alcohol on his breath) and was not "stoned" as far as I could tell, so I pulled $2 out of my case and gave it to him. I don't usually give money to people who just ask for money, but my money was sitting right there, so I did. 
Then he said "Please sir, can you give me at least $5, enough for a meal?". I said "Sorry", but he kept saying "please". I kept saying "Sorry", but he just kept repeating "Please, I haven't eaten in days". He wasn't being obnoxious, but he was just being very persistent, and finally I fished $3 out of my case and he took it, thanked me and off he went.
I'm never sure whether to give money or not. My kind of default answer is "Sorry, no" but I'm not sure whether that's the best (and most moral) answer. I've seen posters around the city saying not to give money to panhandlers, but to instead give money to homeless shelters and places that provide safe food and shelter. That way you know that it's going toward "healthy" stuff rather than drugs, alcohol etc. I think that's probably the best thing to do. But how could I in good conscience not give him anything when I had a full case of money sitting right there? 
So comment with your thoughts!
  • Do you give panhandlers money? 
  • Do you think we should just give money freely and believe that it's not our responsibility to know what they do with that money?  
  • Should I have caved in and given him that $3?
Thanks for the thoughts.


Dorothy said...

I don't generally give to them, though I do give to homeless shelters regularly.
Sometimes I feel bad, but I think usually it's feeding an addiction. I know a few people that have tried giving food or bus tickets and have gotten sworn at by the panhandler.
This isn't to say it's always the case, but it seems to happen a fair bit.

Also, I think I've seen the guy you were talking about, and you really didn't have any other option. He's quite in-your-face.

Anonymous said...

I usually don't carry money on me, so I can honestly say that I cannot give them any money. If I do carry money, I just carry the amount that I will need to use that day (which helps me not to make impulse purchases) and I keep it in my pocket or another out of the way place, and I say I don't have any change to spare.
-you'll never guess

Logan said...

Yes it would be a difficult thing, I agree completely with Dorothy though. And normally I don't have money to give, I don't usually give money out to friends either, only the few good friends that we really just share a few bucks around, if you know what I mean.

Also having the money right there would be a hard thing to not give the money, Personally I most likely give out the 5 dollars, but then pray to god that he would do the correct thing with the money, and then next time (if i went busking) when I would go to the market occasionally empty the money into your pocket or something along those lines so its not in plain view.

Runs With Scissors said...

I usually don't have change with me and so I usually don't give any. I always feel bad not giving.
Honestly, I don't think that we should decide what they do with the money, if giving them money is going to help them feed themselves then I think it is worth every penny, if they use it for something that isn't going to help them it was their choice. But there is always a chance that it will really help them.
Giving to shelters is always a really good idea, but sometimes I think it's best to give directly to the person in need.

Runs With Scissors said...

(PS, REALLY good post)