Malice Aforethought

When I set up Bill’s blog for a christmas present, I had no doubt that he would outclass and out-write me in short order. I was not disappointed.

His very first post is an excellent essay on a matter we have discussed many times: panhandling.

At times, I wish it were as hip to brag about charitable giving as it is to show off a new diamond. If giving became a competition amongst the better-heeled to show how much holier-than-all they were, then there would be less need in the world. Alas, it’s much more fashionable to talk about the tax break on the new SUV.

But all that is quite nearly beside the point.

Bill’s ending point is a good one–if he’s going to give to panhandlers knowing what they are, then he should be doing it out of his own discretionary money, and acknowledge that it’s to make him feel good, and is not necessarily the best way to make a difference.

I often waver, but for the most part, I’ve stopped giving. As Bill says:

“These people are thieves twice over, and beneath contempt: first they steal from each mark and then, much worse, inasmuch as they erode goodwill and contribute to compassion fatigue, they steal from the very people who most desperately need help.”

This is an opinion I share, and as such, I would prefer them gone. On to other lives, other choices. Professional panhandlers cause too much damage on the streets every day.

Lest you think me cold-hearted, I give. It’s uncouth to talk about it, so I won’t. But let’s just say it’s a chunk, and it goes to a few of the wonderful agencies mentioned in Bill’s essay. Does this clear my conscience? Hell, no. It’s wrenching to say no to people, even when I know they’re scamming. I wouldn’t want to be the kind of person for whom it was easy. But I’m willing to feel bad, and do more.

4 Responses to Malice Aforethought

  1. Jenn says:

    Another alternative is to purchase meal vouchers from the Sisters of the Road Cafe. When approached by a panhandler, you can give them a meal instead of cash. Not a perfect solution, but one I would prefer to use in addition to supporting other organizations who work directly with the people on the street.

  2. Cat says:

    Bill covers that pretty thoroughly in his essay. It’s something we’ve definitely considered, and may yet do.

    The big thing is, we don’t have the facts. We’ve decided to do some volunteering and get to know the people who work with the homeless, so we can have some real data on what’s going on with whom, rather than rank speculation.

  3. J says:

    Look out, Jason and Meg, Bill and Cat are here to give you a run for your money as Everyone’s Internet Couple. 😉

  4. Cat says:

    Last night I joked: “Maybe we can be a nice version of Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden!” and Bill said: “Nice?”