What’s the most you’ve ever given to a panhandler, and why?
Whether or not I give anything to a panhandler depends entirely on my mood and what I make of the person handling my pans. When I’m in a bad mood, the Virgin Mary carrying the Baby Jesus couldn’t get a nickel out of me. Even when I’m in a good mood, it depends on whether or not I feel the panhandler is trying to scam me. If it doesn’t seem like he is, it then depends on the vibes I get from him. And of course, if money is tight, I may not give anything even then.
I was in downtown Atlanta (I forget why) and a lone squeegee man approached the pickup truck ahead of me at a red light. The guy in the truck seemed to be cussing him out. I looked at the squeegee man, and—I dunno—something just kind of clicked. The look on his face from the verbal abuse he was getting was heartbreaking, and he seemed to me like a regular Joe who was just down on his luck. The pickup roared off when the light turned green. I rolled down my car window, called the guy over, and gave him ten bucks. He apologized for not being able to clean my windshield, as there were cars behind me waiting to go—but you should have seen the way his face lit up when he realized he’d gotten a sawbuck. At the time, my mom was in the hospital with lymphoma, and the doctors had just informed us that her case was hopeless. Maybe that influenced my decision.
A few weeks ago, I was pulling up the off-ramp from I-285 to Covington Highway, and there was a panhandler with a can hitting up the line of cars waiting at the light. He was so skinny he looked like a concentration camp survivor. Any other time I might have written him off as a junkie or something and just cruised on past, but I guess the child-like delight he showed when the woman in the car ahead of me gave him some money broke through my defenses. When he got to my car, I rolled down the window, grabbed the first bill I saw in my wallet, and gave him a ten. I thought he was going to cry. He said “God bless you!” almost loudly enough to be a shout, grabbed my hand and kissed it, and held my hand to his cheek for a few seconds as he said some kind of prayer.
Hell, there’s plenty of times I’ve spent ten bucks and gotten a lot less.
So what’s your story? What’s the most you ever gave to a panhandler, and why?