Today I was walking out of the bank after having just withdrawn four hundred and twelve dollars for rent money. Outside the bank was a homeless woman. “Do you have any spare change,” she asked me in a genuine tone and a complete sentence.
To which I replied, “No,” looked in the direction I was headed, and hurried off. As I kept walking, guilt consumed me. Here I am, this over-privileged twenty-year-old, who has enough money to be carrying over four hundred in cash with me at one time, and telling this woman with absolutely nothing a flat out lie. I could have easily given her a dollar or two or bought her a cheap meal, and it wouldn’t have broken my bank by any means.
I didn’t though, and I rarely give money to the homeless. This is for two very specific reasons. The first is because my own paranoia about my future gets the best of me. I think sure, I have money now, but I spend more than I make (which at the moment is nothing). I want to save as much as I can, so I have more in the future. This means not allowing for things that aren’t necessary or wont benefit me in some way. I know that this is selfish and destructive to the community as a whole, but I still allow that selfishness to dictate my actions every day. The second reason is that if I give to every homeless person I see on a day-to-day basis, I would, in fact, give away all my money pretty quickly. What dignifies giving to one and not the other? And how much good can giving only a dollar or two one time do?
I realize the guilt I feel when I see them doesn’t change a thing. I could go out and volunteer, or give an amount of money I can find in my budget to a charity that I find worthy and that will put it to good use. My thoughts on this topic have made me want to change my behavior to include these things. Instead of stopping at Duane Read to get a candy bar after I post this I think I will donate to charity.