Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Teach a Man to Fish?

Many years ago, on my way to the movies with some college friends, I was approached by a homeless panhandler who asked me for some money to buy a can of soup. I gave him what I could spare. A couple of hours later, when we were on our way back to the dorms, the same guy approached with the same request, he was hungry and needed some soup. This time though his speech was slurred and he was sipping cheap wine out of a paper sack. Obviously he had spent my money on a different kind of hunger.

I didn't give him any more money, but I did eventually have an epiphany of sorts related to the incident. While the homeless guy may have squandered his gift from me, I had not squandered mine.

I still give money to panhandlers and the needy where I find them. I don't worry that they may be scamming me or that they may use the money for something other than they claim. That's their problem. If I withhold my generosity, I may be depriving an honest person in real need. If I occasionally give to someone who isn't as deserving as they appear, I may not have enriched their lives, but I have enriched mine.

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