I’m a sensitive guy. I tear up during emotional parts of movies. Human interest stories get me every time. I stopped going to the Upworthy website because it just got too emotional.
However, I’ve struggled on how to turn that sensitivity into tangible action. I especially feel that way around people who are panhandling. I stopped giving money to panhandlers a while back, after I witnessed an adult I was with on a school trip tell one off. It was a weird scene. I felt uncomfortable about it the rest of the day.
I don’t usually give money anymore, but I struggle with the choice I’ve made.
This leads to awkward situations at times. There’s always a homeless person on the corner of West Lyndale and Dunwoody Blvd., right be my church. The person is always standing on the corner, trying to get the attention of churchgoers.
I’ve occasionally just straight up bought food for people. It’s usually when I’m seriously overwhelmed and I need to do something that will directly affect someone’s life. I probably do not do this often enough.
A friend of mine gives McDonald’s gift cards. I’ve thought about doing that, but I’ve never done that. I just put it off. You struggle because you wonder if the dollar you give will help them relieve pain or hunger, or if it will just spent on some other form of self-medication.
Which, now that I think about is a very condescending attitude. I drink alcohol, sometimes multiple nights a week. Yes, I use it responsibly and I don’t have an addiction, but it feels weird saying to someone that they shouldn’t deserve something I enjoy as well. (This is just a guess, but I’m not sure many homeless people will be schlepping for growlers at Dangerous Man.)
This brings me to something else entirely: street musicians. If I have a couple bucks or change in my pocket, I will give the money to the performer. I like hearing people play their craft and I think it should be supported in public places.
I also do it to be fully present in the moment. It’s pretty easy to go around town avoid human contact. You can put your headphones in or stare at your phone and you might as well be on a different planet. People usually try to avoid anybody with a bucket out to collect spare cash. You make a connection every time you put money in there. It breaks that wall and brings forth the acknowledgement that, yes, you are a real person performing a service and you are being recognized monetarily for it.
I also like it because the musicians are usually grateful and say thank you. I also think this sort of act brings you good luck.
Giving money to people who are just straight up asking for it is a weird exercise. I don’t think my philosophy is perfect, but I hope it at least partly breaks that veneer that people create in those situations.