Giving on the Street

The other day my brother piqued my curiosity by posting a link to an interview with three prominent individuals in the Christian and non-profit worlds. In the interview, each man shares his thoughts on whether Christians should always give money to people on the street who ask for it. Their answers vary, and I had trouble fitting my own view in with these perspectives.

In general when I am directly asked for money, I will or will not give simply based on how generous I feel that day. I have purchased food directly for people, given to food drives and obviously the food bank where I worked last year; I’ve given McDonald’s brand money (to ensure that it’s spent on food), and I’ve also ignored the people who have asked me for money.

There are a lot of needy people, and a lot of people who abuse the generosity of the people around them who do give them money when they ask, no matter how real or fake the individual’s challenges are. I want to believe in the goodness of others, yet I’ve been raised not to trust what people say to me whether it’s a sales pitch at the cosmetics counter or a plea for help on the street.

Last week I spent some time watching a hilarious British comedy on Netflix called The IT Crowd. In Episode 3.3 Roy, one of the IT guys, experiences a day on the streets, or as wiki puts it,

 Roy [is] thrown out on the street after being spotted shirtless in the office. The poor man has been forced to find a dirty shirt and jacket. Without his doorpass, he finds himself sleeping homeless (well, officeless) with a small dog for company. Eventually Jen finds him curled up under a cardboard box; he greets her in tears, and the two head to the office.

Humorous as it is, it begs the question, what’s the best thing to do when someone on the street asks for money, food, or anything else?