Immediate charity: to give, or not

know the face of your benefactor

a-group-of-opened-cans-of-food-containing-fruits-vegetables-and-legumesOne of the ongoing challenges some of us have is how to do immediate charity. You know, those moments that the person making the request is right there, and referring them elsewhere feels inadequate. Here are two recent examples.

I was walking near the Subway/Dunkin/Chinese restaurant on Madison Avenue in Albany. A woman makes a practically inaudible request for money for food. I’d rather buy her food, so we entered the establishment. She ordered a foot-long Subway sandwich, which was fine. I sat at a nearby table.

At some point, she turned around and asked the man standing behind her if she could also get a bottle of soda. The guy, who was white and about 20 years younger than I, didn’t know what to say. I stood up, waved at her, and said getting the soda was fine. Hint when you’re getting food from a stranger; know the face of your benefactor.

She was otherwise very strategic, though. She got double meat, quite possibly double everything, because the bill was $14 including the Coke. That went pretty well.

My family was driving out of town when we see a car pulled over on Everett Road, right before the entrance to Interstate 90. My wife pulls over, and I lower the passenger side window. The guy comes out, says he needs money, and starts putting a massive ring, and a variety of gold-colored jewelry on the dashboard in front of me.

I assured him, as I quickly handed the items back, that we didn’t want his stuff. If he wanted, we could go to a nearby gas station and get his gas tank filled up. No, he wanted money. I said, “Sorry,” rolled up the window, and my wife drove off.

As we discussed this, we realized it was his invasion of our space that weirded us out. His hand was INSIDE the car. I might have pulled out my wallet and given a $20, but his hand was INSIDE the car, where my wife and daughter sat.

Someone locally who I know a bit wrote this recently: “Our church puts together bags that contain articles (shampoo, crackers, socks.etc.) to give to the homeless and we carry a couple in our car and give them to people we see who might need them.

“Yesterday, I gave one to a man standing in the Wal-Mart parking lot and a car behind me gave him a sack of food from McDonald’s. Coming back around the parking lot to get onto the exit, I saw the man again and he looked so content and happy eating a hamburger and wearing new socks, sitting in the sun.”

One does what one can when one can.


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