For the Librarians: The Do-Wii Decimal System

The Good

My friend Rebecca came over yesterday for dinner and some Wii-ing.

I met her through Dave’s blog, in the comments section. She was in town a while ago for a convention and we went for coffee.

I suggested she come over for dinner and so that’s what we did.

After dinner we played some Wii games.

Needless to say, my ass was handed to me on a silver platter in Wii Tennis.

The Bad and Ugly

I used to give spare change to homeless people.

That is, until I gave one a generous sum and then saw him walking into an LCBO later that day.

Do you think it’s wrong of me not to give spare change out anymore?

12 Responses

  1. Do you think that homeless people do not have the right to buy or drink alcohol? Was that the first time you’ve seen or heard of a homeless person buying alcohol? Why does it matter that it was your homeless person in particular? Do you feel the “generous sum” (your words) gives you a greater right to judge the actions of those who benefit from your generosity, or instill in them an obligation to obey your wishes? Would you have stopped giving change if you had seen him walking into a bookstore (a luxury of a different kind)? What about a candy store? What if you saw him buying a donut, or a hot dog from a street vendor (arguably someone asking for help should be more frugal)?

    I’m not trying to be an ass (although I’m surely seeming one right now), I’m just challenging you. And I don’t think it’s wrong of you not to give spare change; I almost never do.

  2. Unlike Zac, i almost always do—-i can’t take a chance that the “story” isn’t real—if it is, I helped, if it isn’t, I knew it was a chance. And the chance is that I’m easing the life of the person who was desperate enough (or calculating enough) to tell me the story. On the other hand, Ottawa has instituted meters where you can give your change to the city to administer to chosen groups like The Mission and the food bank. I prefer the personal touch, but maybe that’s all about my gratification

  3. Your decision to no longer provide your spare change isn’t a bad one.

    (I work too damn hard to be as poor as I am.)

  4. Your challenge is completely welcome.

    I understand what you are saying. Certainly my intention of giving someone some money to help them better their situation is nothing bad. And I have every right to be disappointed in someone who decides to take the opportunity to better their situation and flushes it down the toilet with their rented alcohol.

    While I have no right to judge the actions of individuals, I can certainly be angry at what they may do to themselves.

    Usually, I tend to give “things” to the downtrodden. Clothes, food, that sort of thing.

    Maybe I was just mad that I was conned out of the money that I willingly gave to help a fellow human being. And instead, that human being used that money to harm themselves even more. I enabled that, and can certainly be peeved at the situation, and choose not to repeat it.

  5. Were you really conned, though?

  6. I am all over the map when it comes to the homeless. My opinions, attitudes and guilt will flip flop by the minute.

    My wife and I once gave someone with a very good story $20 to help this guy get himself and his wife back to Barrie. Ironically we have seen him since using the same line on others. A definite con man.

    Then there are those now standing on islands at big intersections with signs about how they have the children to feed.

    The city had the problems with the street kids “washing” windshields for money.

    Part of me feels guilty if I don’t help the destitute. My Christian conscience says “as you do to the least of these you do unto me”.

    But I also have read so many exposees in the newspaper.

    One article from over a decade ago was about a well known street person who, at the end of the day hopped back on the subway to her apartment in Mississauga with her nice colour TV, etc.

    There are shelters for the homeless. Many of these homeless refuse to use them because of the “rules”. Most of these rules are very simple. Using the facilities available to them is their choice. Some have totally broken spirits and mentally can never adapt to any kind of social assistance. And of course there are the con-men.

    I think we are long way from A Christmas Carol where Scrooge asks “Are there no workhouses?”. We do have social safety nets.

    It is tough to watch single mothers trying to raise kids, yet at the same time they spend untold amounts on addictions (even legal ones like smoking).

    Or their kids who I have seen not going to school and expecting the government to support them while they steal their mother’s cigarettes and rob their mother blind.

    I feel like I am damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Given those two conflicting emotions, and being the guy that I am, I usually opt for the action of least effort .. that is to say inaction. Do nothing. Just feel guilty… I can live with that .. but then again…..

  7. Tien – When someone tells me they would like some money for food, I assume they are telling the truth. I give them the benefit of the doubt.

    Richard – Shades of the “Shaky Lady” echo in one of your paragraphs.

  8. That is a detail you left out, but it doesn’t really matter. I know that you’re not naive enough to truly believe that when someone says they’re going to do something that they always do exactly as they say. While we all hope for this, we know that it just doesn’t happen that way.
    As Lorna said, it’s a chance and in this case you chose to take that chance.

    If you had the specific intention of feeding that person or clothing them, then your usual action of giving them “things” is a better way to help them. But even that doesn’t guarantee that they will do what YOU want them to. They could sell those “things” you gave them and use the money for whatever detrimental habit they choose.

    While their choice is saddening and disappointing, it is still their choice. You can’t be angry at someone for making a choice for themself. Be angry that these con men are giving the truly needy and those that actually want the help a bad name. Be angry that our social assistance programs aren’t working as well as they could. Hell, be angry that our tax dollars are being wasted on these programs if you want….or be angry at yourself for taking that chance.

    In any case, my answer to your question: No, I don’t think it’s wrong for you not give out change anymore. If you feel badly about not helping people in this way, then donate to a charity for the homeless or put in some volunteer time at a shelter (I know you’re short on time, but I’m just putting the option out there).
    I almost never give out change, but like you I have given “things”. I’ll give food to someone on the street (I’ve actually had someone refuse food I offered too), I donate clothing and items I no longer have use for to local charities.

  9. Dude, you got schooled!

    Also, no, I don’t think it’s wrong for you to not want to give money to homeless people. It’s tricky. In a way, even if they don’t buy booze, you are likely enabling their way of life. On the other hand, who’s to say if they’re genuinely trying for a better life?

    I don’t give change because I do not have money to spare. But if I did, I would definitely NOT give them change. I would, however, just buy them the booze myself. And hang out with them when they drink it.

  10. You also didn’t mention that you handed a certain someone their ass in bowling. Turnabout’s fair play, after all…

    Giving money to panhandlers – I’m more likely to give money to a busker than to someone rattling a paper coffee cup at me; like you, I’d rather buy them “something” (as in coffee or a sandwich or a bottle of water). Up here, it’s not a huge issue, especially at this time of year, but I am happy to direct people to the proper agency in town when they come into my place of work asking for change.

  11. I’ve thought about this in the past, but not very recently, and here’s what I’ve come up with back then: I decided/realized that giving change helps me feel better way more than it probably helps them. Giving helps me feel better; but giving generously sets me up for disappointment.

    The result is that I try to give only as much as I could lose without feeling bad — the reality is I “waste” money regularly: buying a pack of gum, or not clipping coupons, or not checking expiration dates, unnecessary driving, renting alcohol, buying outside my community. If instead I give a small amount to someone else, I can think of it not as a waste because it bought me good feelings.

    If I have change, and someone asks for monetary help, I trust my gut and don’t look back. If I give a buck or two, I assume they will buy cigarettes or worse, and that for some reason unfathomable to me, it really is a need to them. I guess that’s my defense mechanism.

    Also, I want to work against forces that desensitize me — whether it’s violence in the media or people trying to take advantage of me. I would rather give a little occasionally than lose hope in people.

    Also, giving in other, more certain ways, like being involved in charities and giving at church, helps me.

    Anyway, that came out of a lot of philosophizing after one time I got schooled in a similar incident. What I’m still philosophizing: if I give to feel better, is it any kind of generosity?

  12. In answer to your question, no I do not think it is wrong for you to not give spare change anymore. You are a person of conscience and honour and generosity. You were betrayed, but you will eventually forgive the betrayal and give again and that is life.

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