I heard in the subway: ‘I’m not a beggar; I’m just poor’. I thought it was a funny and smart thing to say.
Some time ago I started this policy of not giving money to charity or in the streets because I thought it was counter-productive and contributed to a vicious circle, etc…
I was walking in the street at around 11:00 pm and this friendly looking guy came towards me: ‘Talk to me; I don’t want money; I just want food’. I happened to just had bought some strawberries which I offered to him. ‘Oh, no. I’m a diabetic; that’s going to make my blood sugar rise. I can’t eat it’. ‘OK. Let’s go to the supermarket (which was right across the street) and I’ll get you something else’. ‘Look, if you give me four dollars I can go to the grocery store four blocks away and get a lot of food. I always go there. I must hurry because they’re about to close’. I was thoughtful and curious. I questioned him about why he didn’t go to the shelter; it was something I had wanted to know for a while. He said ‘Oh, no. I used to go there and I got raped’.
Of course I gave him the four dollars.
I ran into him again some days later. I opened my wallet and gave him 5 bucks. He saw I had a 10 dollar bill. ‘Oh, please; today has been awful; with 15 dollars I can eat four days. I promise I won’t ask for more money today’.
I obviously gave him the 10 bucks. I walked away thinking: ‘Why did he promise me he was not going to ask for more money for the rest of the day? It does not really affect me if he gets money from other people……..’
The key is not what you ask for, but how you ask.