My friend Pat and I disagree about begging in the street. I’ve been told by experts who work with the homeless to contribute what I can to shelters and food pantries, but not to give directly to beggars. Pat, on the other hand, stops by every panhandler she encounters, chats for a minute and then gives them a Euro or two. (She lives in Dublin.) She says, “Paul, you can’t just pass them by.”
I can, but I feel awful about it. I used to avoid beggars as much as possible, refusing to meet their eyes, until someone told me that it’s people’s denial of our shared humanity that most upsets people who have to beg. I now smile and maintain eye contact even as I shake my head and move on.
What’s your strategy for people in the street who ask you for money?