To Give Or Not To Give?

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When David and I were out walking with Rigby on a recent Sunday, a glorious late fall day in New York, we stopped to get a hot chocolate. (I only took a few sips!) While we were sitting on the bench outside the shop where we bought the treat, a man (I’d guess he was in his 50s) approached to ask for money for “something to eat.”

“Can you give him some money?” I asked David, since I had left my handbag home.



“Bless you,” the man said, as David handed him a few dollar bills, and off we went to buy some Velcro to fix a newly broken shelf in our Sub-Zero refrigerator, which was stocked with post-Thanksgiving leftovers. I bring up the brand of the refrigerator, as well as the contents, because we clearly are blessed with a great deal more than this man.

Ever since I was a teenager, I have been empathetic to people asking for money on the street or in the subway.

Although I’ve read articles over the years about different “scam artists” who pose as homeless people, I think I’m pretty safe in assuming that a severely handicapped person who struggles to get from one subway car to the next isn’t scamming anyone.

Homeless people aren’t the only ones who ask for money in New York.

You might hear Beethoven coming from a talented violinist at one subway station; Calypso music at another, and a singer serenading passengers at a third. I often give money to these people, too.

Some friends think I’m an utter fool to give away money like this–they’ve told me so– and although they’re certainly entitled to their own opinions, I wish they’d keep it to themselves. It saddens me greatly to see anyone begging publicly.  Of course, I’d like to think that those taking the money aren’t using it to buy liquor or drugs, but if they are, so be it. You shouldn’t be generous to someone and then control how or where they use your gift.

We each have our own way of giving to others, and one method isn’t preferable to another.

motherIf you’re Mark Zuckerberg, it’s great if you can afford to give away billions in Facebook stock. Or write a hefty check to you favorite charity. I am not wealthy, and I usually like to give on a “one-to-one” basis. My giving doesn’t involve money all the time, either. Often, giving of your time or emotions means a great deal more.

No one is going to compare me to Mother Teresa any time soon. I simply believe we must each find it in our heart to be generous to our fellow man, and woman, and consider ourselves lucky to have something to give.

6 Responses to “To Give Or Not To Give?”

  1. Judy Cervantes Verdusco says:

    I love to help those in need, but the way we do it is by either giving food or gift cards for food. Sometimes we take and give something we see they need; shoes, socks, clothes. Like the story, it’s not the ends justifying the means, it’s the means justifying the end of changing and helping lives. In my case I give as Jesus instructed in Matthew 5, “when you help the least of these, you have also done unto me”. So mo matter how large or small, the lord loves a giving heart; one who does not look for anything in return.
    Great job of helping others!!

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  2. Heidi says:

    My best friend gives to the people who ask in the streets. I do not. Enough of the so called homeless people are scam artists to make me not trust the rest. I have had discussions with people in my family who have given to the homeless only to see them hand the money over to their wives driving nice cars or watching them add it to a big wad of bills in their pockets. I give instead to the local shelters or toss my change into the box at the grocery store that benefits children when I have money to do so. When I don’t, I go through my closet and pull out what I can spare to donate to the cheapest thrift shops in our area or a woman’s shelter. I pitch in when there is a food drive that will benefit the local hungry. Last winter, my Girl Scout troop made up bags with toiletries for the shelter to give out. There are loads of places for the true homeless to get food and shelter. Every time I turn around someone in my area is collecting shoes, coats, money, food, etc for the people who really need it. Unfortunately a lot of the real homeless individuals are mentally ill people, who self medicate with alcohol or maybe drugs, so I don’t want to inadvertently be the one who gives them the money for them to die from alcohol poisoning or an overdose.

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  3. Margaret graczyk says:

    I just had this very same conversation with a dear neighbor. When we see these unfortunates, it is usually on street corners available to traffic. I was grousing and mentioning the scammers being videotaped these days when she pointed out that if “just asking for help” would be the hardest thing a person could see themselves doing, then those asking for help must really hurt inside, (even if their need was for something we might not approve of). So, again, who are we to doubt their need? Our conversation went on about that if it’s a feeling we still aren’t comfortable with, then maybe packing a few non-perishables would be easier. We both agreed since we are no longer packing the cars with foods for the kids or carpool, that we could substitute it for the needy. We decided to have those goods available in the car in a prepacked lunch sized bag for those we might see. We started making a list of easy carry food items including a bottle of water and then added personal cleaning items (toothpaste, tooth brush… whatever we could pick up in bulk from the dollar stores). We will each have three bags always in the car and when the situation arises, we’ll pass it on. This was something we could feel charitable about without judgement. Maybe some other readers might decide to do the same <3

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    • Geri Brin says:

      Hi Margaret,

      Sounds like a smart idea. Thank you for sharing it. Would love to know what reaction you get when you start handing out the bags.

      Best,
      Geri

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  4. Lorie Bratten Corron says:

    Well put. Giving makes one often feel like a sucker. But if just one person really needs the benefit it’s worth it.

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    • Geri Brin says:

      Thanks so much for your comment, Lorie!

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