I am always so hesitant to give homeless people money. I’m sure the majority of us does not mean it intentionally.
We don’t want to give into their pleas perhaps because subconsciously we believe that we have earned the money while they didn’t take opportunities or chances to work. I always worry that if I give them money that they will just spend it on alcohol or cigarettes. Sounds harsh, I know. But in some countries, like here in Japan, it’s hard to tell.
Some time last year, I decided to go out and draw some billboards near Dotonbori bridge. It is not dangerous in the area, but sometimes it can be a tad shady. I take out the water-colors one by one, and people passing by see that I am drawing the area. They comment and tell me I’m doing a good job. However, they do not stay and people who took interest eventually go on their way. I love talking to people, and I enjoy it when people seem to take a liking to my art.
Half way into my second drawing, a man in slightly tattered clothes comes up to me as well. His beard is unbrushed and he smells a bit unpleasant. He is obviously homeless. He comments on my art and we start having a conversation. I enjoyed the first few minutes I talked to him, until he mentioned that I must have spare money to give him. I felt my walls go up instantly.
I actually didn’t have much on me, but because he was being so relentless I told him that I had none to give and that all I had was enough for my train ride home. He didn’t believe me and still insisted that I give him money. I told him I had none, and he eventually gave up and I went back home.
On the train, I felt very guilty. “Why didn’t I give him anything?” “Am I selfish?” “He’s probably out there freezing now”.
Why did I choose not to give him the money? Do we only give when we feel like it is our idea, and we put ourselves on a pedestal of “I am such a kind person to give up my precious dollar”?
There are always two sides to the same coin. Perhaps I was right in an economical sense by not giving. Apparently it is not good to give to the extra needy because it will lead to something called “rent exhaustion”. The more you give to beggers, the more beggers will try.
I believe my thinking was wrong. I realized that I was being greedy with money when there will always be coins in my purse tomorrow. Despite the possibility of him buying alcohol, despite whatever problems he had in his life, I had the chance to give. Giving should be a priority, not just to the homeless, but to the people around you. It never hurts to give a little more.
This post shall end with a quote that comes to mind:
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” ― Winston S. Churchill