On Thursday, I had to run a couple of errands. One of them was to stop-by an OfficeMax facility to get a new mouse for my laptop and a plug for my cell phone. The OfficeMax was located on the outer-circle of a giant shopping mall near our house.

After purchasing my items, I drove away from the store and in order to leave the mall area, there are two lanes that help you exit out onto the main road. I got into the left lane to turn left and head north. The stoplight had just changed, so I had to drive down the lane and wait for the light to change before I could turn. I was behind another car.

As I turned into the lane, I saw him from a small distance: the homeless man standing there on the raised shoulder holding a sign about him being homeless and needing money. My car came to a slow stop behind the first car and I made eye contact with the man. In that moment, I had a couple of options while waiting for the light to change: 1) pretend like I didn’t see the man by picking-up my phone and playing on it, 2) acknowledge the man with a simple wave, or 3) reach into my wallet and hand the man some money.

I elected for option 3. Why? I don’t have one set reason. Maybe it is because I always say to myself “what if that was me and I was desperate for money?”. Maybe because I see someone who is in-need and is just trying to get-by? Maybe it makes me feel less guilty about my own stake in life? Maybe it is because of what my Roman Catholic upbringing teaches me about “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”?

Or maybe simply enough, it is because it is the right thing to do?! I have had a couple of discussions over the years with a few people about this topic. A couple of people have said “Why give it to them, they are just going to go buy drugs with it?”. Others have said “why don’t they just go get a job and stop pan-handling for money?”. Or my favorite is “why do they have to do it here? Why can’t they go do that someplace else?”.

Personally, I do not have a perfect answer for those questions. I understand peoples’ reluctance to give money to a random stranger that is not part of an established charity. There probably is even a little truth to each of their arguments. We really don’t know what that person will do with that money and they are distracting drivers when they are standing there.

I do know this: there is usually only one person at a time begging where I see them and for me, in my life, the $1 or $5 I give them is not going to break my bank. They probably don’t collect more than $50-$100 a day and can not buy a lot of drugs with that. If they knew a better way to get money, they would be doing it and they need a big open place with lots of cars driving-by with lots of opportunity just to collect the little that do they collect.

Whatever the reason people choose to give or not to give, in my mind, I have to do what I think is right! I have to go to bed at night in a warm bed with a full stomach and sleep with a good conscience. I can not give to everyone in this world and won’t save the world with my little donations, but I can save my little part of this world.

By Mark Michniak

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