Picking a Bone With Panhandlers


I believe my scent attracts panhandlers. I don’t know what it is, but maybe my Old Spice deodorant gives them the sense that i’m overflowing with money. Truth is, i’m not. I don’t really mind people coming up to me and asking for money, because I see this as a chance to get to know somebody new and have a nice conversation. Apparently most of them don’t seem to see it that way.

Let me tell you about my most recent encounter:

One Hour Ago

I drive into the gas station a few blocks away from my house. Before I even get a chance to park my car correctly next to the pump, some guy is already walking right beside me asking me something.

“Woah Woah man”, I think to myself,”Give me some time to at least get settled in here” He didn’t even let me roll down my windows to hear what he’s saying, and by the time I did he’s already midstory.

“…would be so grateful if you could help me out. I’m not a bum, and if you give me your address I can mail you back… I just got a phonecall from my daughter. I need to get to…but my car is on empty. I’m trying to get $10 dollars, that’s two tanks of gas. Right now I have $3 so could you help me out?” (The ellipses are meant to show what parts  I couldn’t hear or understand)

I know I have a few coins in my car in case I need to pay for a meter or something, and I start scrapping up the few quarters that I have. “I can give you a dollar in quarters, that’s all the change I have.”

Then, with a look of disgust, he takes the quarters and says something like, “Pssh that’s all” and walks away disappointed.

That right there I cannot understand. Maybe it’s my own fault for being a sucker and giving out money to those who ask me for it. Now I barely gather a few tanks worth of gas money for myself, but I still like to give to others. I’m a strong believer in the goodness of people, and that could be my own downfall. Some would argue that all i’m doing is encouraging them to continue to ask people for money, but I don’t see it that way. It would be different if I know that the person is a “bum”,seeing them in the same location every day,  and begs because they’re too lazy to get money otherwise. That I do not encourage, but in situations like these, I don’t know enough about the person to assume anything. I’m also not one to judge, so I like to provide people with resources they may not otherwise have.

For them to have the nerve to say to me, “Is that all?”, “Can you go ahead and take out more money from the ATM?”, is way beyond my understanding. I don’t expect anything in return for my help, even going without a thank you is fine, but at least be grateful. Not necessarily to me, but to the fact that you got what you were asking for. This is not limited to one occurrence either, for the past few times my contributions have been received with a similar attitude.

Also, if i’m going to help you out I like to at least have a little conversation. What I found out though, is that those who beg are too pretentious to enjoy a little chat.

Person: “I need a few dollars for some burger, fries, and a drink”

Me: “Man, burgers and fries? Is that really going to be good for you?”

Person: No response but puts their hand closer to my face in an aggressive manner

Now some might say, “Well you’re undermining this person, for they’re asking for money to get by and you’re judging the food they’re going to eat”. That’s not the message i’m trying to get across at all. I’m actually concerned about what this person is going to buy with the money, and if it actually is for food, about what they are going eat. If this person only had the decency to continue the conversation, I might have even ended up going to the restaurant with them and buying them a much better meal.

One last thing I need to get off my chest. Why is it so taboo for me to ask this person why they’re asking for money in the first place? I guess people just assume i’m asking to judge others. I think that’s cynical. I don’t believe i’m higher up or better than anyone because i’m in a position to help, but if you’re going to ask me for something of mine, why can’t I do the same? I want to know the story as to why you’re in this situation in the first place. Was it an economic problem? A mental problem? A social problem?

To me this shows that we as a society have become too isolated and have lost the essence of what truly makes us human; expressing ourselves to others through language and emotions. We need to stop looking for the negatives in life and just enjoy every minute of it.

This does not apply to every experience I have had though, because I had some truly meaningful conversations with a few homeless individuals in the past. All they really wanted was someone to talk to, someone who would listen to them, and I have two perfectly working ears that could handle that. I thank them for giving me insight into their lives and helping to improve my own, for those who spend their days watching the world move hold the secrets to how life works.



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