There is a lady that we see on a regular basis in our area of town. She has been panhandling at the light of a popular intersection for about 6 years now. She is about 40 yrs. old, wears sweats, and is about 170lbs. We see her probably 2-3 times a week in all types of weather. She has a sign saying: “Need some money. What would Jesus do?”
When you first see this woman, it pulls at your heart. You think: “One day, that could be me.” I can tell you that this woman has been panhandling for approximately 6 yrs. In all that time, I have seen her on a regular basis. Could this woman get a job in the last 6 yrs.? I certainly think so. Did she want a job? What do you think? Maybe panhandling is more lucrative than the boring ‘ol 9 to 5?
I have seen this woman (and many others like her) with signs on the side of the road. My son and I saw a man last year with a sign stating: “Lame and need a few bucks. God Bless.” He dramatically hobbled past the cars during a red light. Once the light turned green, he easily strolled back to the corner. What a miracle a green light can be. It can heal the lame!
Being a mother, I want to encourage my child to care for those that are less fortunate. We have worked at a food bank and with church groups to help the hungry. We have worked in a soup kitchen and fed food to those that truly lived on the streets. We have donated our coats to those that would go cold during the winter. THOSE people were truly needy. It is EXTREMELY difficult to teach your child to be giving, but don’t be stupid/naive.
I believe my point was driven home this afternoon when I saw our familiar panhandling lady at a red light. She had up her sign and gave the cars that were stopped her best: “Help me or this could be you one day” looks. When she realized that those at the light weren’t going to give her money, she yelled: “You can all kiss my *ss!”, and flipped the bird for all to see. She then walked against the light under the underpass and squated down to urinate. This was in plain sight. My son said: “Mom! That lady is peeing!” I could not believe what I saw or heard.
A few years ago, a liberal homeschooling mom was telling me a story about how she gave money constantly to panhandlers. That was until her husband “opened her eyes”. On an early Saturday morning, her family was out for a drive downtown. They came to a red light and there was a panhandler asking for money at their car window. She reached into her purse to get out a $10 bill for him. Her husband stopped her and asked what she was doing. When she said that he looked like he needed some money, her husband said he needed to show her something and drove off without donating the $10. Her husband took her to an overpass downtown where there were vans and people dressed in shabby clothing. Parked next to the vans were nice cars (i.e. nice sedans – not junky or beat up). The people getting into the vans were panhandlers. The vehicles in the parking lot were THEIR cars. These folks had been “trained” to become panhandlers and made a LIVING on our sympathy. Needless to say, this mom only donates to charities where she knows where her dollars are going.
Recently, there was a man that was caught harrassing a woman for money on a Houston Metro bus. The woman refused to give him money, and an undercover officer stepped in and questioned the panhandler. The man had no identification on him, but he did have $3,426.78 in cash in his pockets. He also had a citation in his pocket for “aggressive panhandling” from the month prior. How long does it take the average 9-5 employee to make that kind of money?
How do we know when someone is genuinely in need or when they are just “preying on your sympathy”? How do you differentiate between destitute and deceitful? How do we keep our hearts open to those in distress, but know when to turn from a swindler?
I will remember our local panhandling lady until the day I die. She educated me today in when to trust and when to drive on. I think I will keep donating coats and buying canned goods for those that truly are poverty-stricken. For those that ask for money on corners and line their pockets with the money of the naive, I say: “Shame on you. You won’t be pulling at my heart strings any longer. If you need help, there are churches and community organizations that are there to help you. They can cloth, feed, house, and help you get a job. Have pride in yourself and earn a living by WORKING. It is how the rest of us put food on our table and can afford to drive our “nice” cars.”