Friday, November 18, 2005


Spare some change?

I was out for lunch with a couple of friends on Saturday at this little sushi buffet place we go to pretty much every week. After we left the building, we stood outside the front door and said our goodbyes. This ragged looking guy was walking through the parking lot, turned on his heel and headed right toward me. Of course he came up to me and not my friends because, hey, after all, I AM the Freak Magnet. He held out his hand with two quarters in it, and stuttered out "Hey buddy, do you think you could help me out to buy a cup of coffee?"

Now normally, I tend not to fork out money to people on the streets as a rule, but for some reason I was feeling somewhat charitable at the moment. Maybe it was because I was with some friends and I didn't want to look like a cheap bastard. Hmmmm.... Anyway, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a loonie (Canada's one dollar coin, not to be confused with our twonie - the two dollar coin). I handed it to the guy, making his total $1.50 (not counting all the other money I'm sure he had in his pocket). I figured that would buy the guy a coffee at the Tim Horton's coffee shop on the next corner. He looked into his palm and said "That helps."

Then he leaned in toward me a bit closer and said "Hey buddy, do you have another one of those you can give me?" Incredulously, I just looked at the guy and said "I just gave you a dollar. What you have there will buy you a coffee." Then he turned and walked off.

You know, that kinda chapped my ass. I gave the guy a buck, he didn't even say 'thanks', unless 'that helps' counts, and then he tries to get me to double the donation.

My one friend said that she never gives pan-handlers money. She tells them that there is a Salvation Army at the corner of (wherever the hell it is.....Walk & Don't) and they would gladly give him something warm to drink and probably something to eat as well. She's got great boundaries.

My other friend, the Psych Nurse, told me that one of her co-workers carries Tim Horton's gift certificates in her purse and gives those to the pan-handlers so they can get coffee or a bite to eat instead of giving them cash. She figures that they are more apt to use the money for booze, cigarettes or drugs, so she refuses to help them do that. On one occasion, this woman handed someone one of the gift certificates, and the person threw it back in her face. Obviously, they weren't intending to use the money they asked for to buy coffee like they said.

My friends and I parted ways and got into our cars, and as I drove out of the parking lot, I see the recipient of my limited generosity heading down the street in the direction of the coffee shop. Hmm...ok, maybe he was going to use it for coffee. As I'm thinking to myself that maybe I was a bit quick in judging him, he changed directions, held out his hand and headed toward a woman in another parking lot who had just parked her car and was walking through the lot. I'm sure he probably showed her the same two quarters he showed to me. My loonie mingling with all the other donated cash in his pocket.

I've heard about these people who have gotten their donations thrown back in their faces by homeless people, but I give food to them all the time and that has never happened. They've all been very grateful.
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