Just a little change??

The other day, Mom and I took her Fancy Pants car in for service and after they finished, we decided to do a bit of shopping.

Now the morning had been beautiful, but by afternoon, storm clouds were gathering. And we were eager to get home before the skies opened.

As we were making our way across a parking lot to the car, I noticed a woman standing around. I didn’t pay her much attention, but she zeroed in on us and came right over.

“I hate to ask this, but I was supposed to donate plasma and that fell through. Now I need gas money to get home. Would you happen to have a few extra dollars to give me?”

WHAT?? A panhandler in the parking lot of a major department store?

“I’m sorry,” I told her. “I can’t do that.”

And I raced for Fancy Pants, leaving Mom — who hadn’t heard this exchange — with her mouth agape.

“What did she want?” Mom asked, as I threw the car into reverse and flew out of there.

I told her the story and glanced back to see the woman pull a new-model cell phone from her pocket and start using it.

Hmm, what’s wrong with this picture?!

Here’s a woman who claims she doesn’t have money for gas, but somehow manages to get to the mall toting a new phone??

It smelled like a scam to me.

I know times are tough, people are hurting, the economy is struggling, etc. But my late dad used to tell me stories of the Great Depression years.

When people were really hurting.

And he pointed out that NOBODY would beg for money without offering to exchange a good or service for it.

Like, if you had a laying hen and needed fresh milk for the kids, you’d barter and exchange with your neighbor who had a cow.

Everybody got what they needed; everybody saved face.

So when did it become okay to simply beg from strangers?

And why do we permit able-bodied folks to panhandle rather than working at legitimate jobs?

Perhaps because we’ve made it so lucrative. If you can get past the pride thing, you know.

But I find that rather sad, don’t you?

24 thoughts on “Just a little change??

  1. I loathe scams. The scammers nail the tourists in downtown all the time. Young women, baby on hip hitting up the guy from timbuktu who is worried that his wife or daughter (she could leave her wallet at home….etc. etc) could be in the same predicament..,so he helps and then she has the gall to take his name and address so she can mail a check the minute she gets home. Never happens. When I worked downtown I made it my business to save these tourists and anyone else because it happened to me—cost me $20.00 but taught me a lesson. I give to people who ask straight up for change, and often more to the person who tries to entertain me (a kind of barter for laughter). I’m not sure why people panhandle,but despite how they look they often seem very sad, bridges burned, and without any real support system. Keep in mind I am far from liberal 😀 but we aren’t all born with the same gifts and if a $1.00 and a god bless or smile can help someone make it through another day be it by liquor or McDonalds I can spare it. However, if someone tries to pick pocket me or scam me I’ll toss them under the bus and walk away.

    • Thanks for your firsthand experience, Katybeth. Living in a relatively small town, we just don’t get that much in the way of beggars. I suppose you’re right in saying we all fritter away more than a dollar every day, so that seems a reasonable amount to help somebody in need. Sad to say, a dollar won’t even buy a gallon of gas any more, so my panhandler wouldn’t have gotten far!

  2. LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVED this post, Debbie!!!

    “And why do we permit able-bodied folks to panhandle rather than working at legitimate jobs?”


    You see, I live in a city and witness this kind of thing constantly. And when I say constantly, I mean constantly. You see the same people walking around with cell phones and smoking a cigarettes; asking for money because they’re broke.

    Excuse me, but what is wrong with this picture? A cell phone and cigarettes, but they’re BROKE? Sorry, I am not a heartless and uncaring person, but I can smell a scam a mile away. I prefer to give my money to charities in which I KNOW the money is going to a good and legitimate cause.

    I love the story from your late dad.

    Great post, dear lady! Have a wonderful Wednesday!

    P.S. And btw, I just love your blog!

    • Ron, did you know you have brightened my day with your kind words? Thank you, dear friend!

      “I prefer to give my money to charities in which I KNOW the money is going to a good and legitimate cause.” YES YES YES, that’s it exactly!

      I’ve often seen a guy holding one of those “Car broke down. Need money” signs, right outside a fast food restaurant with a “Help Wanted” sign in the window. It seems to me that it would be far easier to find a paying job rather than hold a sign all day long!

      FOX News’ John Stossel did a report (http://www.mediaite.com/tv/stossel-dresses-panhandles-to-prove-you-really-shouldn%E2%80%99t-give-to-these-street-people/) and collected $24,000 in a few hours of panhandling — that’s more than a lot of folks make in a year! Maybe I’m in the wrong profession, ha!

  3. Sister—-I try to give when the opportunity is presented to me. It says in Scripture that we are to be generous—for the least of these. It is not up to me to decide or judge how she/he uses the money. Sometimes I think Jesus is testing us to see how WE are using the resources He bestows on us! And I don’t want to fail HIS test. I love you—-me—we are all working for Eternity…just an alternate thought

    • Sorry to disagree, but giving is one thing — and you KNOW I give! Panhandling is quite another. I find it reprehensible when able-bodied people beg for money from others (they can’t know that I might be as broke as they are). People who are truly in need are one thing; scammers are another.

      As for judging, we ALL make judgment calls every day. Sometimes it’s as simple as “Do I want to spend $10 for lunch, or do I want to keep that money, eat a sack lunch at my desk, and give the money to the church”? I don’t believe that “Jesus is testing us.” I believe He gives us treasures, then waits to see how we spend (use) them. If anybody is “testing,” it’s Satan!

  4. I give when I can. I feel I am less charitable than I used to be, but seems like my money is tighter and more is going to people I know. I’m going with charity begins at home. However, when approached for change and I have it I give it…but I hear more and more about scams these days. I usually follow my intuition.

    • Thanks, Suzi. I agree that Charity begins at home. If we know people who are down on their luck, I think we’re called to help them if we can. Strangers who appear out of nowhere and beg for a handout, not so much. Some of these folks, I’m afraid, are living much better than I am!

  5. This is a sticky subject! Sometimes I give money, but usually, I don’t. I gave quite a bit when I went to New Orleans last year. Here’s why: (1) people did something…played guitar, rapped a song- something. (2) if they didn’t do something, they were at least polite and didn’t make me feel uneasy or threatened. I don’t drink , but I even gave a dollar to a guy who asked for money to buy a beer. Why? Because I felt he was honest. His beer is like my chocolate bar…everyone needs a little comfort sometimes.

    At home in Phoenix, I rarely gave money (more often, I handed out bottles of water.) There was one group of panhandlers that made it a family affair- mom, dad and kids sat out on the corner with a sign. For some reason, that just bothered me. It felt like it was shameless “pimping” the kids for cash and I couldn’t support that by giving them money. I’d been approached in parking lots before, and that made me really uneasy, especially when I had the kids with me.

    I guess it just comes down to, if the request makes us feel uncomfortable, we shouldn’t feel obligated to donate.

    • Good solution, Janna. I did feel threatened — kind of like, if I’d opened my purse to fetch my wallet, she might have grabbed the entire thing and fled! Probably my overactive writer’s imagination, ha!

      I usually prefer to give to charitable organizations. It might be wishful thinking, but somehow I expect them to have “vetted” out the recipients and found them truly needy.This was the first time I’ve been approached in a parking lot, and it truly made me uncomfortable. Maybe I handled it badly, but if the lack of guilt is any indication, I didn’t. Thanks for weighing in!

  6. If you’re going to give to charitable organizations, you’d better vet that organization as stringently as you would an individual. The amount of graft and corruption is unbelievable. To be quite frank, if I have ten dollars and only one place to give it, I’m giving it to an individual in need.

    And I agree with Suzie to this extent – I decide whether to give, or not, but once I’ve given, I don’t worry one bit about whether the person is “worthy”. That’s not for me to judge. I give because someone says they’re in need. Perhaps I’m wrong sometimes, but I’d rather be wrong than judgmental.

    There is one thing I’ve learned over the years. If someone says they’re hungry, the best approach is to provide food. If someone claims hunger, but doesn’t want to wait around for me to bring back a meal from McDonalds – well, there’s something else going on.

    There’s so much panhandling in Houston that people are pretty well attuned to what’s legit and what isn’t. A lot of it isn’t – the guys washing car windows in traffic, for example. But there are hundreds if not thousands of homeless who can’t just get a job – especially veterans who’ve come back home, and are getting no support from the VA. Some of the people we meet really do need help.

    • I stand corrected, Linda. Obviously, I’m far from an expert on these matters! In fact, this is actually the first time for me to be approached by an individual claiming to be in need.

      Are some people posing as needy to scam the good-hearted? Yes, certainly. Are some people just trying to see if they can milk the system? Definitely. But for the truly needy, the ones who for whatever reason can’t claim support from some charitable organization, perhaps seeking a handout from a stranger just makes sense. And I’m glad to know so many kind people read my blog! Thanks for submitting another perspective.

  7. Debbie, I once saw a woman begging on the side of the road. She was missing both arms and just had stumps. I gave her a couple of dollars. I think the issues go deeper than either you or I can imagine, having never been in a situation so bad that we resort to begging. Sometimes there are reasons, justifiable ones. Those support services that help the poor have been cut back significantly these last few years. That said, I don’t give to most I see. I generally drive right past them. A lot of times, just by looking at them, you can tell if they’re going to use it to buy alcohol. But once in a while I see someone who touches me, and I want to help. Like that woman I mentioned. Besides, no one barters anymore. Maybe they did during the depression but not anymore. These are different times. And people are still suffering.

    • I agree with you that “the issues go deeper than either you or I can imagine.” And I probably would’ve given to the woman you described, too. What I’m talking about are able-bodied people who play the system (and play on the sympathies of others). While we can’t know another’s true need, we have to use our best judgment in determining if we want to part with our money to encourage a scam. It’s not that I don’t give — I do! What I resent is being forced to give — by people on the street, by charities who send me requests weekly, whatever. Thanks for weighing in, my friend!

  8. –I think that many people on the streets have mental illness which prevents them from working….but some are def. able bodied people living off the system.
    I have a story. This guy was on the side of the street w/ a sign reading: WILL WORK FOR FOOD. My friend went to MacDonald’s and bought him a meal. The guy threw it and said, “I don’t want this shit!”
    So not cool.

    • Wow, refusing food? That’s a first, Kim. One could say he’s entitled to be choosey about what he eats, but perhaps he should’ve specified a five-course sit-down dine-in at a fancy restaurant, rather than the generic, Will work for food sign! Thanks for stopping by, dear!

  9. Debbie, it’s sad how these “scammers” have made us less open to giving to those in need. Like you mention, we don’t know if we’re helping someone with a legitimate cause or a swindler who’s trying to make a fast buck. Like Monica, I try to help those who really seem like they don’t have the physical means to help themselves. Yet Kim’s story also points out how ungrateful many of those panhandlers can be. What’s a person to do? I think one of the best ways is to donate to reputable charities who really use every cent to help the needy. Thank you for the link! I never thought to check how donations are being used! Great post, friend. It not only sparked great conversation, but also made us think! 🙂

  10. The sad thing is, I would give to someone if I knew they really needed help. But it’s hard to know who to trust anymore. I was listening to a radio show a couple of weeks ago on my way to work. A woman called in to talk about how she takes her kids out to certain street corners with a cardboard sign that simply says, “Please help.” She said this is how she funds her family’s annual road-trip vacation. Both she and her husband are employed, and they own an RV for these annual trips. She said she was teaching her kids to earn money creatively and the people who donate (who probably assume she is a single mother who’s homeless) feel good because they gave. And they never take more than $250 at one street corner. “So it’s okay.”

    • Creatively earning money, huh? Wow, that’s a first! I know what you mean about wanting to give, but you’re right — we hear so many stories about scams that we’re leery to do so. Nice of that woman, though, to panhandle and make others feel good about funding her road trip — NOT!

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