I was sitting on a cement block in the warm bright sunshine streaming down on the city center of Charlotte, NC. The convention center, several yards away, was a black hole to cellular service. So, although I was the only one sitting on that cement block, there were hundreds of others nearby that were also forced out into the beautiful day.
I had to sit there. I am not an important business person with millions decisions that no one but me can make. No, I am just the average Joe who doubles as a working mom. I had to sit there on the cement block because I was waiting for my husband to call me back with an update on one of my children’s urgent health needs.
Sitting still in the city in beautiful weather must make you an excellant target for panhandlers. Maybe my face said, “Kind and compassionate” or maybe it said,” stressed and distracted sucker.” Either way, the man made a beeline for me as soon as he spied me.
It’s not like I’ve never been appraoched by a panhandler before. I have various strategies for handling them. But, I think my latest is my favorite.
See, deep down, I want to feed the hungry, poor, and homeless. I would like to make one day just a little better. That is, if I could trust them. I know about the strung out on drugs kids who create elaborate stories to get money for drugs. I’ve fallen pray to that before. But, it doesn’t stop me from wanting to help those who legitmately need it.
So, the man approached me and I didn’t look away.
“Ma’am, I’m trying to get something to eat. I can’t make it to the shelter tonight. I just need 90 cents to buy a bag of chips.”
Without saying a word, I reached into my purse and took out a Fiber One granola bar. I extended my hand in way of offering the granola bar to him. He didn’t like that.
“Man! I’m trying to get something real to eat!” and he stomped off down the sidewalk.
Seriously?! Dude, you just told me you were going to buy a bag of chips. There isn’t anything real about chips. Fiber One is definately considered healthy when compared to them.
While you might argue that he didn’t realize it was a granola bar and thought it was a candy bar instead, I still point out that he was off to buy “chips”. There is no health advantage there.
I guess I like to think that I was right in offering food in that case. That if he were someone who was truely hungry that he would have taken the offering despite what it was. It not like I offered a partially eaten one.
When my business was finished and i could leave my spot, I felt satisfied. I was willing to help someone truely in need and I think I found a way to seperate those telling the truth from those trying to scam the rest.
When I left the convention center later, the panhandler was still wandering around outside looking for someone to offer him something other than food.