In my latest reading of Is Bill Cosby Right? (Or Has the Black Middle Class Lost Its Mind?), Michael Eric Dyson talks about a time when an African-American held him and a female companion up at gunpoint. Dyson reasoned with the man as a fellow African-American, learning that the man was trying to feed his family. What’s more, the man said that he himself had been held up at gunpoint not long before.
That made me think about the times that I have lived in cities and have come across pen-handlers. I have bought them food, since I was often told that I should give pen-handlers food rather than money, for they would probably use whatever money I gave them on drugs or alcohol. But suppose that was not always the case. Suppose they were trying to collect money so they could feed their family, or save for a rainy day. If that was the case, then I could understand why they preferred for me to give them money rather than a sandwich or a hot dog I bought for them at a nearby stand.
And suppose that they were collecting money to buy drugs or alcohol. It’s wrong, but it’s understandable that people in dire economic straits would try to self-medicate.
Would I give to pen-handlers if I still lived in the city? Well, I’d probably buy someone a meal here and there, but, overall, I would not. I only have so much money. I think that it is best to give to charities.