He came running towards me in the parking lot asking for money. And when I turned around, I noticed that it was not a homeless person. He was young, seemed healthy, and quite capable of seeking gainful employment.
When I was growing up, we didn’t get an allowance. There was no automatic amount of money that our parents gave us every Friday. If we wanted some extra pocket money, we worked on it.
So, at age 12, I started a journal route. I delivered over 50 items every day, seven days a week, all year round. I made my collections, paid my manager and the rest was mine.
When I turned 16 and got my driver’s license, I joined my buddies at a local restaurant where I did the dishes, a hot and miserable job. But I was proud when I got my first salary as a big boy. I have worked continuously since then. I paid for college by working three jobs on campus to avoid student loans.
I’m not trying to brag. Work is what I was taught. This is what we do. So I can’t help but be brief when approached by beggars as I walk through a grocery store parking lot.
I understand that there are people who have real problems, either financially or physically or both. I may be naïve when I think that there are organizations here that are available to help these people. So honestly, I don’t know why they would resort to a strategy of street begging for change.
Of course, my cynical side questions their motives and I often think they collect for alcohol or drugs. And that cynicism was backed up the other day when I was approached by this young man. He literally ran towards me so there was no physical disability. He was younger than my sons and looked completely normal and healthy. He was clean with a backpack and looked like a college student. And he asked me for a dollar.
I looked at him in dismay. I asked if he was joking. I started telling her that there were signs for help all along the street with fast food places offering 15 bucks an hour. But he didn’t want to hear it. He just turned around and ran away.
There are many people who have had serious problems in their lives due to abuse, addiction issues, bad luck, and mental health issues. And I really feel for them. But this kid was not one of them. And I wasn’t going to give him a penny. He looked quite capable of doing the dishes, just like me.
I believe in compassion. And I was taught to help others in need. And I hope to do enough. But I will do it my way and make sure everything I offer is used responsibly and not on alcohol or drugs. That’s why I don’t give someone money in a parking lot.
Ray Kisonas is the regional editor of The Monroe News and The Daily Telegram. You can reach him at [email protected]