I was driving into south city today for a meeting, and upon pulling into a parking space, I had watched as a homeless man walked with cane across the street towards me and sat down four feet from my car door, waiting for me to exit. Now hear me out: I wasn’t scared to get out of the car, but I wondered how long he’d wait for me – would he really make it that obvious when there wasn’t another person in sight?
He won the waiting game.
I got out of the car, and immediately he asked me for change.
I responded with a no thank you, but offered to buy him a coffee at Peet’s, as I was headed that way.
He retorted that he didn’t need coffee, he needed $1.50 so that he could buy some salt and pepper shakers to go with his meal, as it was cooking on the stove as we spoke.
I told him hot chocolate tasted really good.
An intersection of stubborn wills obviously came into play here, and as I walked to the coffee shop (and he asked me a third time for money, and a third time I offered him some caffeine), I wondered if I’d responded correctly. My old friend Murrow in Santa Cruz used to argue that it wasn’t my responsibility to even CARE what the homeless person did with the money he handed them – for his responsibility was to give if he was asked. “But what about drugs and alcohol and other stuff that shouldn’t be purchased with loose pocket change?” I’d ask. Doesn’t matter. Not my business.
So too I’m faced with the same conundrum: what would you do in this situation? Does it matter what the person does with the money, or do we have a responsibility to be good stewards? Was I just being overly stubborn in my coffee insistence, while he was being too damn stubborn in his salt and pepper desire? Is there a right and a wrong here?
Yet still I think about it. I try to drive with granola bars in my car, as to be able to hand them to folks if need be – but, if what they’re really asking for is money, then should I just give without worrying where it’s going, because that’s my responsibility?
Would love your thoughts…0