16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just–
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.
Some people in Utah think that the area surrounding Temple Square is the panhandling capital of the world. I don’t know if that’s true — I’m not well traveled or well educated enough to say for sure. However, it it’s at least in the top twenty, I submit that Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts, would crack the top five.
I have never seen so many varied types of panhandlers anywhere in my life. (Incidentally, I find it interesting that people looking for a handout flock to areas frequented by those that are perceived to be towards the poles of the political spectrum.) Add to their numbers the buskers and the activists with clipboards of all stripes (none of which are quite the same as panhandlers, but since they’re all asking for money, I would argue that they do contribute to the general atmosphere of solicitation) and you can hardly take a step in any direction without tripping over an invitation to open your wallet.
Without getting into the comparative merits of giving to charitable institutions, etc., vs. giving directly to an individual, I propose the following experiment:
You have one dollar in your pocket to donate to whomever you like. You may not get change and split it up. To whom do you give it?
1. One of the many homeless-looking people scattered around the benches or in wheelchairs. Theirs is a passive technique — they merely sit by their cup (occasionally with a cardboard sign) and hope you will notice them.
2. The young man in the Ralph Lauren shirt and Tommy Hilfiger jacket that rattles his cup incessantly right next to the door of the CVS Pharmacy and says “quarters only” to everyone that comes out.
3. The Spare Change News guy — he is very pleasant and always greets everyone with a smile (often accompanied by a compliment) and enthusiastically asks if you could help the homeless today.
4. The guitar / karaoke busker — hey, at least he’s doing something.
5. The Amnesty / PETA / Children / Greenpeace activist — standard manipulative cold approach: “Hey, do you have a minute to save the ___________?”
Give your preference in the comments. What factors influence your inevitable “judgment” of those you find more or less deserving?