Change is more than money

By Justin David Tate

While walking to the library recently, a man in a torn shirt approached me on a bicycle. He appeared to be homeless and asked for some change so he could eat.

My first response to his inquiry was to offer to buy him a burger from McDonald’s, which was further down the road.

The homeless man repeatedly turned down my offer, then got on his bicycle and left.

Why does an allegedly hungry man only want money and reject an offer to buy him food?
The logical conclusion is he was either mentally unstable or his real intention was to buy alcohol or drugs.

Because of encounters like this, unless I have a place for that man to stay, clothes to put on his back or food to put in his belly, why am I even stopping?
I asked my friends why they give money freely to the homeless. They said never even think about it.

They merely react on impulse to give without pondering how effective their generosity is.

Giving money without seeing if it actually solves a problem is not effective.

Some may say, “Well it’s only a dollar.” But a dollar that helps a crackhead buy more crack or an alcoholic buy more alcohol is a wasted dollar. These “pity dollars” only perpetuate the substance abuse.

While in Indianapolis during the week of Super Bowl XLVI, I rode the bus every day to work a Pepsi promotion downtown.

One day a homeless man stopped me and asked for a sandwich. I scanned the place for a store that served sandwiches.

I didn’t check for the cheapest price, I didn’t tell him no, and I certainly didn’t just drop money in his hands and leave.

I told him yes and had him come with me to choose a sandwich. I bought one for myself, too, and we talked and ate a little before I had to jet to work.

That is how giving should be done.

I’m not saying homeless people are bad people, but they need more than just change to change their lives.

If they are struggling with an addiction, they aren’t in their right mind.

A dollar could be used to buy a burger, but that old itch for a fix could prevent them from using that money in a positive way.

On Sunday when Et Cetera
staffers were leaving the National College Media Convention in Chicago, we had one last meal at Timothy O’Toole’s Pub. We left with several boxes of leftovers.

A man on the street asked us if we could spare some food, and we gave willingly.

He had plenty of food, and we walked away knowing our gift was going to someone in need.

Money isn’t going to solve everything. Sometimes it’s the coat off your back or the food from your plate that can make the biggest
difference.

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