by Matt B

Nearly every day on my way home from work, I pass what I call “homeless corner”. This particular corner is an intersection about 1/2 mile down the street from the homeless shelter here in town. Every weekday, without fail, there is a homeless person panhandling at this intersection. I imagine that the proximity to the shelter and the long light forcing traffic to be in one place for a relatively long period of time provide for an ideal place to beg.

I end up finding myself hoping against hope that I will not be one of the first two cars stopped at the light, as this pretty much guarantees an uncomfortable encounter with a beggar. It is rare that I notice the same person twice at this intersection, so I imagine there being some sort of raffle or drawing of straws at the shelter to see who gets “homeless corner” on that particular day.

After reading The Giving Pocket at The Simple Dollar a few weeks ago, it made me think differently about homeless and helpless people. Instead of seeing them as down on their luck, incapable of work, or disabled in some other form, I started to see them as salespeople. After all, the best (or maybe worst) story is what is going to sell your potential “customers”. This may not always be the case, but often what you are paying for is a story.

Homeless people are little more than salespeople.

Few people want to hear about the guy who lost his job and can not find another. We want to cry. We want to feel this person’s pain. We want the worst possible story you could want to hear. I realize how sadistic this sounds, but in many cases it is all too true.

Trent’s story at The Simple Dollar uplifted me. Not to the point of epiphany or even close, but it made me smile just to know that people like this still exist. I will not recap the piece here because I would rather you read it yourself. You can do so HERE. Since this read, I have re-evaluated my giving habits. I still avoid eye contact with the slumping, downtrodden folks on “homeless corner”, but I gave a lot of thought to charity as a whole.

Those who know me well also know that I am not a very religious person. That said, my money that would be used for tithing, ends up in other hands. Charities, Goodwill, and the Homeless are the biggest recipients. The Giving Pocket made me wonder if I give enough to those less fortunate than myself. I do not make much, but am much better off than many, and “karma”, in any form, can be very real. Who wouldn’t want to help others if capable?

In the huge world of personal finance, it is almost always beneficial to review. Whether it is your bills, budget, or income, it never hurts to do a check-up. When it comes to giving, I do what I can. Honestly. I give what I can afford to give. When re-thinking my giving habits, I was happy to notice how much I gave last year. I made two separate contributions to the United Way. we (My Girlfriend and I) took products from around the house that were not in use to the shelter, and I helped out friends when possible. I did what I could when I could, and although there was more giving than I just listed, it feels good.

Maybe you avoid most panhandlers on the street like myself, but most people who are able to afford a decent living give. If you contribute (time, money or both), how much? How often?

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{ 1 comment }

Sean March 6, 2009 at 12:35 pm

I have very little income, but I do give some money, usually to research institutions such as the arthritis foundation because I have a vested interest in it primarily. I don’t give to the homeless, not trying to be cliche, but the chances of them spending it on alcohol, drugs, or gambling seem more likely than not.

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