The current discussion in the waiting room revolves around the cardboard sign Mark has tucked in his shirt. You've seen it:
"Homeless and Hungry"
I called him a con-artist. (Nods and laughter).
My co-worker said she was going to beat him up with her bare hands. (More nods, more laughter).
Because we all know Mark, and we all know the validity of his first descriptor, and the complete absurdity of the second one.
Okay, Mark. Defend yourself.
(his intermittent exclaimations are edited into the following paragraph): "I don't know how they still fall for it, but it makes more money than any other sign I've held. I don't even think they think I'm hungry. If they do they must be from out of town. But it's how I make my money, it's how I make my living."
But it's a dishonest living, Mark.
"Because of this, I'm still living."
We beg to differ. How much of the money you're given goes to life-promoting things? Things that bring you closer to life instead of bringing you closer to death?
"I don't make them give me money. I just ask. I'm not tying no one's hands up. It's still a choice."
People often ask me if they should give money to people who ask them for it on the street. It's always up to them, but I think it helps if you try to figure out why you're doing it. If you are giving money based upon an arguement presented to you, always admit the possibility that the reasons presented are false.
If you're giving it to make them go away, to ease your guilt, make them happy, then it will probably work, depending on how much you give.
If you are giving it to love someone, and to love them by giving them what they really need, then most of the time, giving them money's not going to do the trick. The problem is, though I believe that you will love most people best by not giving them money, you will not show them love in a way that they will understand and receive it. This is an issue I can't claim to have solved, but the following advice is something I believe in:
Stop walking, look people in the eye, ask their name and give them yours. Whether you give anything else is completely up to you.
Mutually recognize each other's humanity. Everything we do should probably start from there.
I volunteered a few other descriptors for Mark's sign. My favorite was:
"Homeless and Human"
He thought it was okay, but that it probably wouldn't bring in as much cash.