Do You Give Money to a Beggar?

Last week while walking from the grocery store to my car, a 30-ish white woman approached me and asked if I had a few dollars. Before I could answer she gave me this pleading look and said, "I'm so hungry."

I gave her the six dollars that was in my pocket and got into my car. She murmured, "God bless you" and got into her car. It was a not-so-old Volkswagon Jetta. I didn't feel good about giving her money. Common sense tells me she won't be spending it to feed her body, but to feed her addiction. Having close family and friends with addiction struggles I know that giving an addict money isn't helping - only enabling.

But what do you do?

I didn't have time to discuss her issues, offer to take her to McDonalds, or quiz her about where she'd spend the money. Clearly she was someone in need... but could I really provide what she needed.

Refusing her request was impossible for me. I couldn't turn my back on that pathetic face, but I know I didn't help her. It wasn't in me to lecture her. There are some who would say what I did was more cruel than turning my back. I remember talking with an old Franciscan priest years ago about beggars. He quoted the scriptures, "When I was hungry you gave me to eat" and "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers ..." He explained that the Franciscan rule demands that you respond to someone who begs.

Did Christ tell us how to identify and respond to this complexity?

What is the loving thing to do?

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  1. Roberta Ward1:33 PM

    I too, have been in this position. Weeks after moving to Las Vegas, I was approached by a young girl with 2 babies in tow, pleading for money...needed medicine for her child. I gave her my last 45.00, mind you, with MY 2 toddlers in my car. Within a split second of me turning around, she has vanished into a car newer than mine and was to find her next rube I'm sure.
    I felt like the biggest fool...and soon came to find, there were 10 more on every street corner there. Never again to give cash, but I did, however, drive thru Mcdonalds and purchase food for those who seemed in particular need on several occasions.
    I don't know the answer to breaks my heart to think theres someone starving that i may be able to help, and yet I know a great deal of this is a real scam.

  2. There was a homeless man sitting next to the bank by Sherwood Ford one day this summer. I knew better than give him money, so I finished my business at the bank then went back down to Burger King and got him a breakfast meal and some orange juice. I handed it out the car window to him and he smiled and said "God bless you." As I drove away, I saw him sit back down on the curb and start to eat. It was a feeling of knowing that was something my dad would have done and I have tried so hard to live up to his "legacy" (I guess you'd call it) and WWDD (What would daddy do?).

  3. Anonymous8:14 PM

    When my daughter moved to Baltimore, across the street from Peabody, the mantra was "Pampers for the baby". These were drug users preying on us newbys. I just made sure I had a pamper with me to give and for a plea for money, pick up some $1 certificates for Micky Dees and have them at the ready. Those requests by starving folks & diapers for the baby disappear instantly.
    Having practiced social work with a variety of folks, I had experience with the stories. I knew where folks could get services and many times, they knew more about the services then me. I also supplied folks with allot of services-well deserved. In fact, many of the people you had to talk into receiving the services. "Too proud to beg", "Didn't want charity", and "I've worked all my life." was their mantra. There is a difference between the money maker who drives away in the nice car and the person that needs a hand up.
    Did you ever ask the people who have the sign, "Work for food", to come with you because you have a job? Or here's this business that is seeking a worker, I'll put in a good word and you just show up? They won't show up.
    So keep your food coupons in hand for $1 deals and give a few out at a time, if you really feel the need. Buy the baby formula or the pampers, if it makes you sleep better. Or just carry a list of a variety of services that that person could apply to for help. Social Services, Health Dept, Salvation Army, Hot weather & cold weather shelters,Safe Haven's for Women & children of abuse , Drug & Alcohol Addition help ...all of the services are out there for the truly needed person. Point them in that direction.
    With the exception of the chronic mentally ill who are living on the street. They are not drug users, in-fact they need medication, but refuse to take it due to their illness. They will not take advantage of these services, they will look so needy, not well fed or well kept. They will not be driving away in a nice car. They need food. I used to take an abundance of food from the country to Washington DC-to feed the street people. They are the exception...all others-
    Teach them to FISH is what Jesus did. If they want it, they can get it from good,empathetic persons who make it their career to give a hand up. You will feel better and it's up to them to TAKE ADVANTAGE of the service ...and not you.

  4. Thanks so much Sandy, Enid and Roberta. All wise words. Sandy, tomorrow I'm buying the McDonalds coupons and putting some in each of our cars. Bless you three.

  5. You ask: "What is the loving thing to do?"
    What You did. And the loving thing that she did, was ask. It is not Our job to do the 'right or wrong' thing. It is to meet, in every encounter, with the Love that We All Are. Just Are.

  6. the "trouble" is, also... Someone that is addicted to drugs is in a desperate situation. They are prisoners to the drug. We have to start seeing other people on a 'level playing field', regardless of what We "think" is good for them. Regardless of appearances, regardless of Our thoughts and beliefs about the "other."


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