The bible says in Deuteronomy 15:11,
There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land.
I think it’s pretty important to do what God says, but in this day and age it’s getting harder and harder to help those in need. 2012 has spawned the beginning of the bourgeois homeless guy. The way things used to be if one saw someone who had fallen on hard times it would be customary to give them any spare change available in the car, hand them a buck or two, or tip them for “cleaning” off the car windshield with that incredibly dirty squeegee. In turn, the person in need would express their gratitude with a “thank you” or a “God bless you.” All of these behaviors were social norms; no different than shaking the hand of someone who extends theirs while introducing themselves. More recently, hand written signs became an easier and quicker way for the mendicant to express their need for help. Popular signs would say things like:
- War veteran, please help
- Need food for wife and children
- Dying of cancer, please help
- Will work for food
- Fallen on hard times, need help
By and large these signs would be quite effective, but people started to question the authenticity of the claims on the signs. Seemingly we were all getting duped, so the panhandlers started to step things up a notch:
- Why lie, I just want a beer
- Betcha can’t hit me with a quarter
- Let’s do lunch, you buy
- Blah, blah, blah, blah … who reads these signs anyway
New age signs like the ones above prompted plenty of laughter, and started to become more revenue generating than the potentially emotionally honest ones from yesteryear. However in 2012 beggars have apparently become exceedingly more selective with what they’ll accept. Here are three scenarios I’ve encountered just in the first 6 months of the year.
Since I rarely carry cash with me, I keep bags of perishable food items (granola bars, peanut butter crackers, graham crackers, bottled water, etc) in my car in case I encounter someone in need while I’m driving. I’ve done this for about a year now, and the recipients have always been grateful. Fast forward to 2012 … as I approached a stop light I saw someone with a sign asking for help, so I opened my window and handed him the bag. Much to my surprise/dismay/chagrin, the gentleman said, “No thanks.” He said he had an issue with his teeth and only wanted money! I had no idea what he meant, especially because he didn’t even know what was in the bag I wanted to give him.
I was walking to get dinner, and a beggar asked me for some money. Once again I didn’t have any, but I told him that I could buy him something to eat. He accompanied me inside Chipotle, and I bought him three tacos, tortilla chips, and a drink. The dinner cost much more than whatever cash I would have given him, but I can certainly sympathize with his situation. After we walked out he gave me a very unenthusiastic thank you, and we parted ways. I was shocked at how ungrateful he seemed about my gesture. Believe it or not, the next day I was walking down the same street in the evening to buy some dinner. I saw the very same beggar, and all he did was ask for some money. No mention of the night before, no smile to acknowledge we interacted previously, just nothing. Obviously this time I declined to help him, but the audacity of it all was so alarming. Lesson as always is to cook dinner, and not eat out.
This actually happened to an acquaintance of mine. They approached an intersection, and there was a beggar at the corner. They also keep snacks in their car for such occasions, and rolled down their window to be of assistance. The beggar declined the offer, saying he really only wanted money.
I get that the economy stinks, but this epidemic of selective, ungrateful panhandling has to cease. What happened to the good ol’ days when someone would clean the car windshield with a dirty rag, hold up a heartfelt sign, or even pump the gas for a little assistance? The entitlement of American society has even penetrated those who have no means to support themselves. What would the founding fathers think about this?