Diptoe

Begging for Change

Posted in Personal Thoughts by diptoe on April 14, 2011
If you have done it unto the least of these...

If you have done it unto the least of these...

Beggar: “Excuse me.”
Me: “Yes, is there a problem?”
Beggar: “No.”
Me: “Alright then, have a good night.”

Mouth agape and speechless, the beggar watched as I walked away. Had he said yes to there being a problem, I would have offered to call the cops for him. Another night in South Bend, and yet another beggar turned down.

 

Begging for change

Being accosted by beggars seems to happen to me quite often in South Bend. There was the guy that claimed he just needed money for a bus ride across town. And the lady that claimed her car was out of gas in the alley, and would I please come help a couple of other young men take care of the situation. Let’s see: dark alley, unseen car, two young men waiting there for me. HELL. NO.

Or the guy that claimed he needed lunch, but refused to go to the homeless center, which was serving lunch just a few blocks away. Or the other guy that claimed he was on his way home, and could I just spare some change? I saw him 3 hours later, a block away from his original spot, giving his spiel to a young couple. He must have forgotten about going home.

 

No handouts. No muggings. No problem?

I talked my way out of each of these situations without handing out a single dime (and without being mugged). To be honest, I sometimes feel a little proud about that fact. I beat the game. Out-talked or out-reasoned or just flat turned down every single request. I won. So why do I still have those nagging guilty feelings?

Is it because that’s how begging works – it preys on your emotions? Or is it because somewhere, deep down inside of me, I really do care? These people aren’t just “beggars.” They are people. Real. Human. Just like me. Many of them look to be my age or not much older.

 

If you give a man a fish…

Sometimes, I wonder what Jesus would have done. I don’t remember him walking down the street handing out money hand over fist. And personally, I’d rather not hand out money – I believe it rewards behaviors that I do not want to encourage.

For example, a man showed up in the parking lot a while back begging for gas money. My friend gave him some money. Two weeks later, the man showed up again. Same time of day, same parking lot, exact same story and again asked for gas money. This time, my friend refused. If you reward a behavior, that behavior will be encouraged and repeated.

 

Beyond handouts

I’d rather go deeper, beyond handouts. I’d rather help solve the core issue that’s causing them to turn to begging. However, the problem with going deeper is that it takes a lot more time and effort, time that I cannot or am unwilling to spare at the moment.

And so I turn and walk away. Troubled.