Thursday, February 07, 2013

A lesson learned on charity.

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.


  1. I am not, and have not for the past 40-something years, been a purchaser (or user) of cigarettes. But I do know that they have gotten to be quite expensive.

    If a panhandler is wealthy enough to possess a pack of cigarettes, he (or she) can't be doing all that poorly.

  2. It is very disheartening to give and have it misused.

  3. I had a man come to my door once with his story printed up and laminated. He never asked for anything, just handed me the paper and asked me if I would please take the time to read it. I did and it was a very sad story. I then opened the door wide and showed him the pile of change on the floor I had been counting, trying to scrounge up enough to buy medicine for my sic kids. His eyes got wide and he dug into his pockets and attempted to give me what little bit of change and the one dollar bill he had in his pocket. I wouldn't take his money because he still needed it more than I did. He did insist that I take some coupons someone had given him for vitamins. I have never forgotten that man even 10 years later. I sure hope he was able to turn his life around. I don't tell this story to prove any sort of point, but I always give a few bucks to them when I can. If I do what I can to help, I feel like I have maybe helped out someone who might really need it. What they do with it is on them, not me.

  4. I do not cater to those beggars and will call them out if I am approached.

  5. Yep. Some of those panhandler's make six figure plus incomes, are dropped off on site by expensive van's or SUV's and stay in upper end hotel/motel's.

  6. Anonymous10:45 PM

    I stopped giving after being told they want cash to buy their own food.I did not give them anything.

  7. I won't give money, but I will offer to buy some food. I've only had one guy take me up on that, most just look at me in disgust and mutter under their breath as they move on.

    My sister used to work in the banking industry, and while starting out as a teller, she ran across a guy (back in the 80's, so they weren't as prevalent as they are today) who would come in and deposit loose change and low-denomination bills once a week. The guy's account was well into the six figures, and he drove an expensive car (wanna say a Beemer, but I couldn't verify that). Yup. He was a panhandler, one of the original cardboard-sign-on-the-corner sob-stories.

  8. I don't 'feed' them either...