Every flippin’ corner in my dtes Vancouver hood I’d be asked, “spare some change?” or worse, told some drawn-out bs story first before being asked.
It’s a dilemma for anyone with half a heart (if you simply don’t give a damn when the destitute on the street corners ask you for your change, you need to puzzle for a while then grow your heart two more sizes).
“They have soup kitchens and social assistance programs, and giving them change is just going to enable their dependency and probably will go straight to drugs”. That’s what I said to my softer-hearted cousin when she visited.
But over time I learned that it wasn’t that straightforward. Sometimes my change really did go to a slice of pizza that may have been the only protein or hot food they’d get that day. Sometimes the soup kitchens weren’t open (like Sunday mornings, because all the faith-based places weren’t open!). Sometimes the access to social assistance was so freaking complicated what little energy the individual could muster was sucked dry during the first (crappy pay phone) call to the 1-800#.
So then. I started giving out change if I had it, and dignify the exchange (somewhat) by leaving it entirely to the individual to use as they saw fit. Sorta like the rest of us do.
But I think I just heard a better answer.
What we can say with confidence is that we are to give something to everyone who asks – dignity, attention, time, a listening ear. Sometimes we may give money, sometimes not.
Sounds like a pretty Christ-massy sort of response to “can you spare some change” to me.
I’ll start, minimally, by not being pouty when some of Yellowknife’s folks (often inebriated to avoid hells I don’t know about) crowd in the local post office entrance or bank machine areas.