Sometimes people who street-beg aren’t who they say they are.
A three-year-old girl holding a Toys for Tots can asked my friend Meredith for a donation at the busy CVS yesterday. Meredith is kind and loves Tots, so she pulled out some singles and handed them over, but the kid didn’t stick the folded money through the can’s narrow slot.
Instead, she pocketed it and walked away.
Five minutes later another beggar approached Meredith at the same store, different aisle. This time it was a desperate woman seeking bus money, and Meredith helped her out with a couple of bucks. The woman thanked her and took off, and my charitable friend went about her shopping with the money she had left.
Ten minutes later, different aisle, same woman hits her up again.
She pitches the identical bus money spiel, word for word, inflection for inflection, to an astonished Meredith. Then the lady hobo pushes forward who she feels is her ace in the hole, her sure fire money getter, her very own Billy Baroo. Standing there, still holding the empty Toys for Tots can in her hand, is the same three-year-old girl as before.
That’s when kind Meredith lost it.
“You already asked me for bus money and I gave it to you, and you shouldn’t be letting her use that can.”
Believe me, for low key, soft-spoken Meredith, that minor outburst was her equivalent of Pacino’s Arthur Kirkland screaming, “You’re out of order! Your well-rehearsed bus money scam and use of this child to fake-charity-collect is out of order! This whole beggar dilemma is out of order!” (Link to ‘And Justice For All’ Scene)
Nobody likes getting scammed.
Even mild mannered Meredith snapped when it finally dawned on her that these two had been playing her for a sucker. It’s that shocked, then angry feeling you get when you feel bad for someone, dig into your own shallow pockets to help, and then find out they were swindling you all along.
And it’s not just during the holidays, either.
Hustlers are out scamming the public all the time. Watch the video of the hard working guy who regularly gave money to the same beggar when he finds out she drives a better car than him. (Link to Video) Even through his anger, his message is clear: I don’t appreciate people like you taking advantage of people like me.
It stinks, too, because the world needs more people like him. And like Meredith.
When I told my wife one time how upset I get every time some stranger begs me for money, she asked why. The best answer I had was that those interactions made me feel awful either way. If I refuse to give a dollar because they’re unworthy (you’ve got arms and legs, dude, earn your own), then I walk away thinking, Who am I to judge? I’ve never walked a day in their shoes. WWJD? He’d fork over the buck, cheapo, and then I feel awful for hours.
Of course, I feel worse when I do give beggars money.
Unless they’re crippled or unstable, my first thought is, Congratulations, sucker, you’ve just been had by the oldest ruse in the book. That guy didn’t need gas money for the car his family is waiting in, he’s going to buy drugs or alcohol using my hard-earned money that my family sure could use.
My wife has a great answer to this dilemma.
She suggested I carry three singles in my pocket and give them to the first three people who ask, no questions, no judgments. Since I love her and have that kind of money, I tried it, and this is what it taught me. When I gave the old way, the gesture was all about me and my judgments and it felt awful. With my wife’s way, though, it became about pure generosity regardless of who’s asking. I walked away those three times with no negative thoughts and I actually felt good about giving, so maybe it was money well spent.
All I know is that for three bucks my beggar dilemma is solved.
By the way, Meredith felt terrible after she left those two at the CVS, so she ended up going back a little later to offer help. Even though scam artists sometimes take advantage of my friend, it doesn’t stop her from being generous. She keeps her heart open, regardless.
The world could use more people like that, for sure.
- Mike Lukas
Thanks for reading – have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
I’m off for a week but I’ll be posting a new one for New Years.
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