Rhode Island’s economy is awful. I mean really, really, awful. In fact, we have THE 2ND HIGHEST unemployment rate in the entire country at 10.9% (Nevada “wins” first place with 11.6) So I guess it make sense that I’d see more people panhandling (is that the PC term?) than Ive ever seen anywhere else.
Every time I go to the mall or to Target or to run any other of my errands that involve spending money, I encounter someone with a sign asking for money.
I’ve never been one to open my wallet and my car window to a pan handler. I usually look straight ahead and keep driving. But now that I have a child, I can’t help but think what a bad influence I’m being on her if I DON’T give a dollar. We don’t have a lot of money. I don’t work any more and we have bills to pay. We are far from well off, but I buy Starbucks about three times a week. If I can buy a $5 coffee drink, I can certainly spare a buck. What would I be teaching my daughter if she saw that I spend money on a coffee but wont give any to help a person in need?
I know that so many think “Oh they will just spend it on booze” or “He’s there because he’s an addict” or some other stereotype (that I know is based on some reality) But in this economy ANY ONE OF US could be out there, with a sign, asking for help. My neighbors were just foreclosed on. They have two kids. They aren’t drug addicts or alcoholics (and even if they WERE that does not make them worthless, they are still worthy of help!) They clearly fell on hard times. Like so many Rhode Islanders and so many Americans. Of course I want these people to get jobs, but in Rhode Island, getting a job is a near impossible task (I know. I stayed in my awful job for 3 years, while sending out HUNDREDS of resumes and applications only to get 1 interview that didn’t result in a job.)
I’ve also heard about pan handlers who make a pretty amazing living off of begging for change, but I think those guys are few and far between. I’d rather give a man a dollar and have him use it on alcohol, than to assume he “doesn’t really need it” and have him go hungry. But that’s just me.
But, honestly, who cares what he spends it on?
Next time you see someone pan handling just remember- that could be ME, it could be YOU it could be a member of your family. Wouldn’t you want someone to help?
I hope that by seeing me “spare a buck” Avery learns compassion for all people, and carries that through her life. I want my daughter to be generous, and caring, and she needs me to teach her how.