A few nights ago, Shuli and I got back to her house after having a meal at a Mexican restaurant. Right as we pulled up by the curb a homeless man was also walking by. He stopped at his tracks and started begging for some change while we were still inside the car.
At that moment, I didn’t know what to do. I made some silly hand gestures saying we had no money. He made some indistinguishable gestures as well, though, I got his gist.
He was frustrated. Desperate. He waited for us to get out of the car. Shuli had the presence of mind to dig through her purse and find some loose change for the man. I decided there wasn’t any getting around it, so I stepped out of the car, and handed him Shuli’s change. He thanked us and we went into her house.
Once inside, we muttered to each other how strange that was. How entitled he seemed. As if he felt he deserved to get something from us. as if he knew we had something to give, even though we ourselves weren’t sure.
And then I remembered something he said right before we parted ways.
“Help me out. It’s my birthday.”
I’ve long told myself that no one is entitled to anything. Not even on their birthday. But this is a little different…
Now I hope and pray he wasn’t lying. But even if he was, it hardly matters.
It shoudn’t take birthdays or any special day of the year for any one person to feel they matter. At all times, if nothing else, do we not deserve to be treated with dignity?
If we’re going to talk about panhandling etiquette, there are all sorts of made up rules people make up in their minds for such exchanges to feel ok. Have a conversation at least. Give your food, not your money. Volunteer to even get something for them. We all have our strategies…
If Shuli had not found any change at all, what would we have given? Now that i think about it, handing him some coins was the easier thing. That act gave us license to go on our way, leaving with less guilt. We had done our part…
..or had we?