About a month ago, I wrote a post on my struggle with panhandlers…what to do? I want to be GIVING. I mean that is the focus of this crazy journey my family and I are on, but handing over money to just anyone on the street didn’t seem right. I received a comment on the post from Rebecca Ramsey. See, she knew someone, Beth Templeton, who happened to write a book dealing with poverty and one of the chapters discussed my questions on panhandling. The chapter Becky mentioned was called Servant or Sucker?. Nice title right?I thought so too so I stole it, and changed the name of the post. I mean really, with my teeny, tiny following who would notice, right?
The next day I received an email from Beth’s publishing company. Yikes! Did I know about the book? Gulp.But, instead of chastising me, the woman asked if I would like Beth Templeton’s email. You see her publishing company thought I might be interested in talking with her. What? Well, OK!
So first of all, Beth’s bookLoving Our Neighbor: A Thoughtful Approach to Helping People in Povertyis a must read for anyone interested in understanding those in poverty, and practical ways to help. On the subject of giving money directly to people on the street she says this, “When someone walks up to us, tells us his or her "situation," and asks for money, we may pull out cash and give it. We do it because we truly want to help. Or else we give because we feel guilty. We respond because we are afraid. We hand over money because we want the person to go away.”
Yes, yes, yes! I never thought of it that way, but it’s true. Although I don’t give money to panhandlers I often have that same reaction…go away.
So what is a better way of handling the situation? And how do I explain this situation to my daughter?
Beth believes in giving to local service agencies and offers up this as a possible way of explaining the situation to your child.
“I really care about what's going on with that man. If I give him money right now for food, he might not be hungry for the next few hours. But if we give that money to such and such agency and suggest that he go there for help, they can help him in ways that could improve his entire life. And then make sure the child knows how you're helping the agency. If you decide to collect food for a pantry, you can tell your child that you are giving food so that guys like the one you saw on the street can eat.”