Last night on my way home from watching the game at Brian’s, I hopped onto my 6 train going uptown. Somewhere in Midtown, a man got on my car and announced, “Hello, everybody. My name is Howard* and I am homeless. I haven’t had anything to eat in four days so if you could spare some change so I can get food, I would be very thankful…” and went on.
Side note: I tend to take note of whether someone is asking for money (in which case, I am less likely to give) or for food (more likely to give). It’s my quasi-judgmental method. Shoot me. And rarely do I give money to someone who is asking for money, but if have food on me, I almost always give that up.
So last night, I happened to have a packaged chocolate croissant that I had purchased earlier that day (influenced by my friend Jeremy’s croissant purchase) and decided that I could spare it. I saw Howard with a bag of collected food and dropped my pastry in with the bunch.
Tonight, again returning from Brian’s place after another [losing] game, I sat on the 6 train only to see Howard get on around Midtown. He stood there and began, “Hello, everybody. My name is Howard and I am homeless. I haven’t had anything to eat in four days…” and went on.
Immediately, I thought, “Come on, Howie, I just gave you food yesterday as did whoever else contributed to that bag. Even if you didn’t eat it or if you lost it, you’re still lying about four days without food.”
He got off at the next stop and I began to think.
Initially, I was disappointed that he was lying. But then, giving him the benefit of the doubt, I thought that perhaps Howard just feels that he needs to lie in order for people to care and give — in which case, that’s sad on our parts (those of us who can spare some change).
I’ve never really felt conflicted on the whole panhandling/homelessness issue or dealt with that “Christian moral” dilemma. I always thought that people should 1) give to an organization that can better allocate and distribute funds and/or 2) just give what they can, namely food products.
But tonight, I felt the tension a bit. People who give to someone like Howard and then find out he’s either lying, or in some other cases, using the money unwisely thus become jaded — which results in those who really need help not receiving it when they ask because those of us sitting pretty on our subway seats start rolling our eyes or turning up our headphone volumes in remembrance of Howard’s misleading speech.
I don’t know. It’s just sad all around.
(This post isn’t very coherent because I’m still processing it.)