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The impovershied

March 14th, 2010 · No Comments

بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Living in a developed country offers many things not available in underdeveloped countries.  Impoverished people in developed countries often struggle for supplemental comfort such as shelter from the elements, clean clothes, comfortable sleep area, etc..   While the impoverished in underdeveloped countries struggle for more basic items for survival such as basic nutrition, clean drinking water, protection from constant fear of harm, etc..  This difference can really be seen in big cities.

People often shy away from giving money to a panhandler in the street.  Given the public does not know how this individual will spend the money, either constructively on food/shelter (necessities) or nonconstructive on cigarettes/drugs, people are not always comfortable simply handing an impoverished person money.  On the other hand, impoverished people have been known to reject offers of help when someone offers the said impoverished person food or the opportunity to select food the passer by will purchase.  This creates a paradox, as there is some “feel good” feeling when helping others, while blindly supporting negative lifestyle habits is counter productive.

On a recent trip to Washington DC, I was waiting for a friend in the downtown area.  There was a homeless man standing outside one of the business holding the door for people as they entered and exited while panhandling.  My first when seeing panhandlers is to see how poor he/she “looks”.  This guy had recently shaven, his jeans looked fairly worn, but were very clean.  His tennis shoes looked to be in very good condition and he was wearing what appeared to be a North Face jacket purchased from a used clothing shop (it was worn, but completely intact).  First look, nothing about this guy looked like the stereotypical person in poverty.  This called for a second test.  I approached the guy and asked:

“Would you like something to eat?”

His eyes lit up and he said yes.

I said to select a place and he indicated anything is fine.  The Subway less than a block away seemed to be the best option.  I gave the guy an open invitation to buy whatever he wanted, since Subway doesn’t serve alcohol and the worst thing you can buy from a Subway is soda (cookies don’t melt teeth).  He ordered a six inch steak and cheese sub, no drink and no cookie.  After the order was complete, he took his sandwich, thanked me and walked away.

On other occasions, I’ve offered panhandlers food/drink only to see him/her look at the item confused and want to throw the item away.  It’s an odd paradox to be in, desiring to help others out, while having a larger interest in NOT supporting destructive habits (drugs, alcohol, etc.).  Simply throwing money at problems (i.e. blindly giving a panhandler money) is NOT a viable solution, as one does not know what the panhandler will do with the money.  Some might argue upon handing the panhandler money, the responsibility is now on the panhandler to behave in a constructive manner.  I reject this notion and believe it is the responsibility of the people donating the money to ensure it goes to productive use.

Tags: Random · Thoughts

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