Can you spare some change?

My normal answer until today was no. In fact it was a little worse that
no, I’d ignore the person, as if they didn’t exist. I’d just walk on
by, perhaps I’d shake my head, but generally I’d not speak to them or
acknowledge them in any serious way. If you walk around in any major
city, you will be approached by somebody asking for something, money,
food, shelter. I’ve always been torn about this issue. Should I give
them money? Will it help? What would it be used for? How could some
spare change impact or help somebody, so I ignored them, until today.

I recently listened to a man speak about inclusion, and how the most
difficult thing for a homeless person begging for money on the street
was not that you wouldn’t give them anything, but the fact that you
wouldn’t even acknowledge that they existed! He admitted that the money
may not help there situation very much, but the act of giving them
something meant that you had to stop what you were doing, think about
the other person, acknowledge the other person and take some sort of
positive action. This really struck a chord in me, and I’m going to try
and do something about it. Generally, I do have some change to spare,
and even if I don’t at the time I think ‘ll try to stop and acknowledge
them as a person, a person who is valuable and important.

Today, I had two opportunities to put it into practice. On the way out of the
library after picking up a book, I was approached by a man who was
perhaps in his late 20’s early 30’s. Instead of asking for money, he
asked if I appreciated a good joke. Without waiting for much of a
response, he launched into a Texan joke as we walked up the street. It
was a fairly long joke and a good one as it turned out. At the end he
said he was raising money for something and I gave him some change. As
we parted company, he offered another short joke. This encounter
certainly exceeded my expectations. Within another block, a second
gentleman approached me with the more traditional request, money for a
bus ticket. I gave him my remaining change. He seemed quite surprised,
and happy. With a big smile he thanked me and we parted company. I felt
good about the whole thing. I have no idea about what purpose the money
will be used for, but it felt right acknowledging them as fellow human
beings on this journey of life.

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