Tuesday, March 2, 2010

callous or safe?

I work in a rather large metropolitan area, and to get to work I drive through an area that's know for the pan-handlers.  As women, who is usually alone in the car, I NEVER give panhandlers ANYTHING.  Now that doesn't mean that I don't feel compassion for them, and maybe even pity.  Today as I drove into work, I passed two panhandlers.  The first an older man and the second a young man, probably close to my age.  I watched as drivers of cars around me rolled down their windows to offer cigarettes to these two men.  And I felt a little callous, sitting in my warm car, having just eaten lunch, munching on a cookie for dessert.  I watched the younger man take two cigarettes from the car in front of me, thank them and return to the spot he had been sitting.  As he sat back down on his backpack, to keep his pants dry, tucked his jacket over his knees and his hands inside his sleeves, I wished that I had something to offer him.  I felt awful actually.  Was I being safe or was I being callous?

I had a few dollars in my purse, true, I might have even been able to scrounge up a bottle of water.  But were those the offerings he was looking for?  I felt uncomfortable rolling down my window to even offer.  I didn't want to give up the few dollars that I had in my wallet, I was saving the one dollar bills for the health kits that my church is putting together to send to Haiti. 

I am willing to give up my time, my money and lots of other things for Haiti, for local charities, for church, and yet I couldn't bear to roll down my window and offer a mear dollar to either of these men.  Honestly, part of it is fear.  Part of it is that I don't want to give them $$ if they are going to blow it on liquor, cigarettes or drugs.  I'd love to help, I just don't know how to help the most.  And it makes me sad.

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