My annoying hypersensitivity to noise notwithstanding, I’m not a complete bitch and not completely out of touch with what, say, my religion would have me do in regards to my fellow people.
Every morning I walk down a street to work that has, on average, five or six homeless folks on the four blocks I walk. I have never given them any money, and I wonder what the right thing to do is. My ex-husband once saw a guy outside Woolworth’s (back when there was a Woolworth’s!) with a sign that said, “I would love a cold Coke” or something like that, so he went in and bought him one. On the other hand, I once offered a persistent street lady my after-Mass scone and she said she couldn’t eat it because she can’t eat gluten. While I can certainly understand not wanting to have to run for the bathroom when you don’t have one, that put the brakes on my helping her. On some mutant third hand, we have Dorothy Day, who once gave a diamond ring to a poor woman instead of selling it and using the money, saying that even the poor deserve beauty and the woman could sell it if she wanted to.
I have a friend who never gives anything, but always says, “Sorry sir” or “Sorry ma’am,” in order to treat the homeless person with manners and dignity.
Of course, I don’t feel nearly as bad for the cute girl in her 20s who sits on the corner my building is on. She is certainly with the program enough to avail herself of whatever help is out there. Some people… not really.
So Wednesday, when the emaciated lady outside Starbucks asked for help to get a coffee, should I have gone in and bought her one? Sure, if I lose my job — a definite possibility — I will be in horrible straits, but today I can buy her a coffee. Ought I? I didn’t.
Part of the reason is that I’m very shy around strangers. Even the most professional, formal of strangers makes me nervous, never mind a homeless person who may be a bit “off” (as if I’m not!) and will likely keep talking to me. It’s nothing personal or anti-homeless or anti-poor. Just… shyness!
Once I know if I’m keeping my job, I should set up a monthly donation to a local charity for the poor or homeless. But do the really confused, wandering folks — who, in my opinion, should be taken care of — know where to go? I wish I could be as brave as the sorts of people who work directly with the homeless.