Running errands during a recent trip to Calgary, my better half and I were approached by a young male of no fixed address after pulling into a parking lot and stepping out of our vehicle.
Without so much as even the slightest hint of aggression or expectation, the man timidly walked up to us, asking in quite possibly the most polite manner I’ve ever seen for any spare change we might have.
Unfortunately, coins are not exactly something we carry with us in abundance in the age of plastic currency.
And even if we did, my first instinct is generally not to just give money to someone in such a circumstance. While I’d like to believe any money given would be spent on bus fare, food, coffee or any other basic necessities, there always remains the possibility it will simply feed a crippling addiction.
That being said, I still could not help but to find myself wanting to lend this mild-mannered individual a hand. Other panhandlers in the city have approached me before, and not all of them always inspire the same desire to help.
In fact one quick way to gauge a panhandler’s sincerity is simply to instead offer to buy him or her a sandwich or snack of some kind. Perhaps a coffee or hot chocolate if it’s a cold winter day. Those who get indignantly offended and visibly irate probably did not truly intend to spend any money given on groceries to begin with, and at that point it’s probably best to keep walking.
But those who accept any form of help seem to be grateful ó even if it’s just a snack ó as was the case with this young man, who we offered to buy some food since we had nothing else to give.
After picking up some specialty items from an international market, we found him in an adjacent parking lot and handed over a couple of bananas and a cream-filled bun that we had also purchased.
That’s when he told me someone else had in the meantime threatened to call the police, reporting an aggressive panhandler.
All I could do was offer condolences for the lack of compassion and empathy some people have, and wished him the best of luck as he expressed his gratitude.
“God bless,” he said.
As we pulled away, the male was already hungrily wolfing down the bun we had given him.
I’ll never know whether the police were actually called, nor what happened to this individual.
What I do know is some people really should try putting themselves in the shoes of the less fortunate before judgmentally and callously dismissing them, never mind threatening them.
At the risk of sounding clichÈ, society should strive to pull up those who need a hand rather than turning a cold shoulder, ensuring they stay down.
There’s a saying that goes along the lines of, “I’m not impressed by money, social status or job title. I’m impressed by the way someone shows other human beings empathy.”