Once, when a friend and I were planning a trip into D.C., she said, "But seriously, I'm only going in without you if you promise not to talk to the homeless people."
I don't remember what I'd done before to bring that on. I have an admittedly low capacity for resistance to people asking me for food, though, which may make me a sucker. I've volunteered with homeless teenagers before, so I know sometimes people are trying to get money for things that are... not food. But still.
Yesterday I was in Baltimore by myself. I parked my car in a lot and as I walked out, there was no one around except a young man with a beard and worn-looking clothes. He came over to me, said, "I don't know if you can help me..."
"I'll try," I said, thinking he was going to ask me for directions, which was just going to be bad for both of us. I can barely give directions to my house, forget a city I don't live in.
"I'm trying to buy some food," he said.
"Oh, sure." I pulled my wallet out of my purse and opened it, and then realized - and I'm sure he saw too - that I had around a dozen $20's. I'd just picked up cash the day before to pay a friend for a piece of exercise equipment for our home gym.
I couldn't help but think... man, this guy is probably a nice guy who's down on his luck, but the nicest guy in the world who's hungry has got to be thinking he could punch me in the face and walk off with my wallet right now, even if he never would.
That didn't happen. But I thought two things, afterwards. One, maybe I'm dumb for stopping and opening up my wallet when I'm alone and there's no one else around. Two, I wish I'd walked around the corner with him to the Subway and bought him lunch instead of giving him a few bucks and hurrying off to my meeting. It would have been a bit more meaningful of a gesture. So what if I'd been two minutes late?
And those two thoughts are completely contradictory.
I know we all have our own philosophies - some people give to panhandlers, some only give to charities that help the homeless. I don't think there's anything wrong with any of those different perspectives.
But personally, when someone asks me for food, I don't see any reason not to give. I guess I'd rather be a little dumb sometimes.
Poetry: "Track Twenty Four" by Alicia Cook
24 minutes ago