Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Panhandlers and the Sermon n the Mount

This morning I had missed my bus to work and needed to transfer at a stop at a major intersection. This part of town is not known for crime or poverty, but what happened shows that it is everywhere.

A man came up to the bus stop (I was the only one there). He was short, gray haired, about 50ish, rough whiskered, and looked homeless.

Him: "Do you have a quarter to spare?"

Me: "No, I don't." (I don't...not to give to people before I know if they are honest)

He sits down on the bench under the shelter, and several minutes pass. By this time, the clouds are getting dark and it starts to rain and lightning.

Me: "Where are you going?"

Him: "Fourth and Magnolia"

Bus 25 was about to arrive any minute, and it went several blocks from there.

Me: "Well, if you need the quarter, get on the bus and pay your 75 cents and I will pay 25 cents. It's not that I don't want to help someone, it is that I wish to be wise."

Him: "Well, I actually like it here in St. Matthews. I've enjoyed my time here. Bye."

And he jaywalks across the street.

Now, several things were going through my mind. First, how can I be truly helpful to this man and be a wise steward with the money God has given me? Second, is this man wanting money for his next drug fix (or lazy and won't work), or is he really in need of money? Thirdly, how could I as a woman properly deal with this situation? There were lots of cars on the road, so I did not feel too much in danger, but I wanted to be cautious.

My guess is that he was a panhandler, as he turned down the bus ride. I know that this is the wise way to do it in other situations: if someone wants food, don't give them money. Instead, take them to a nearby restaurant and buy them something. Also, I have heard to be careful what grocery you take them to, as they can return the food for cash (Kroger is a safe one to go to, if I recall correctly).

I would love to hear your stories and how you deal with these issues. What would you have done?


At 4/11/2007 06:26:00 PM , Blogger Rusty said...

Sounds like you handled yourself very well. When I was 18 I would have just handed out the cash, and did so on many ocassions. Only after the same folks kept bumping into me did I really hit me that there are folks out there who make a living by ripping people off.

I usually offer to take folks out to dinner, and twice people have taken me up on that. Usually we end up having productive convos about the gospel.

At 4/11/2007 10:39:00 PM , Blogger David B. Hewitt said...

Agreed -- Marie, I think you handled it quite well, probably better than I would have.


At 4/26/2007 08:44:00 PM , Anonymous Susan said...

Hi Marie,
When I visited your city a few years back to see my son who still lives there, we went to a restaurant for a take out order for lunch. I had a new puppy and wanted to stay in the car with her, so my husband and son went in to order the food. A young black lady came up to the window of our car and told me that she was hungry and asked me for some money for food. I was in the back seat with the puppy and dug in my purse and thought that she could not buy much with one dollar so I gave her two dollars. My son and husband returned with the food and I told my son what happened. He said, "Mom, you just gave her money to buy crack with."
Both my sons live in L-ville now and one lives downtown. He gets hasseled by drunks and street people all the time for money. He says now he will not to make eye contact with them because it makes them think you will give them money. He still gives money sometimes to people when he feels sorry for them, but most just want money for alcohol or drugs. My other son used to carry granola bars with him and would give them to people who were begging and said they were hungry in case they really are hungry.
There are many reasons to be cautious. It sounds like the man you spoke to was just trying to get a handout. I think you were wise in how you handled it.



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