This post on hippie faux-beggars by Borepatch got me to remembering.
Back in the 1980's, when I was young and still somewhat un-jaded, I was on a motorcycle trip across the country. I had been camping out along the way, and cooking my meals on a small Coleman stove that I carried in my saddle bag until the stove malfunctioned and nearly burned down the nation's first solar-powered rest area in Sundance, Wyoming. That's another story, of course, but the end result of that memorable afternoon was that I fled the rest area with a non-functioning stove and a fair amount of canned food that could not be cooked. A few days later, as I pulled off of a highway in some west-coast town to get gas, I saw a man standing next to the off-ramp with a cardboard sign that read: "Will work for food". Well I'd not seen this before, and being young and still somewhat un-jaded, I instantly felt compassion for this poor guy who didn't want money but merely food. Recalling the food in my saddlebag that I really couldn't use, I decided that it would be most charitable and decent of me to help this poor hungry guy out. So I stopped next to him, opened my saddle bag, and pulled out my bag of food.
I still remember the look of surprise on the man's face when I handed him what was probably two or three days worth of decent eating. "What's this?" he asked, clearly puzzled.
"It's food," I replied, smiling. "You obviously need this more than I do, so you take it. Good luck!" Then, feeling all pleased at myself for having done something good for someone in need, I went around the corner and down the road a bit to the gas station.
Ten minutes later, having bought gas and used the bathroom, I returned back to the highway on-ramp. The guy was gone, but guess what was still lying in the ditch? That's right...two or three days worth of perfectly good food. Only now the cans were smashed and bent, as if he'd thrown them down and/or stomped on them. It was all needlessly ruined and I didn't even bother picking them back up. And it's been more than twenty years and I've never given so much as a nickel to one of these panhandlers again.