Starbucks Log – Panhandler

Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5)

There’s a panhandler outside of Starbucks. (note to self…find origin of the word panhandler) He’s sitting swami-style, with his back against the wall, just beside the red Sun newspaper dispenser. From my table I can’t see his face, only his body and his stained hands as they intermittently appear holding out a grey cap.

He’s not doing well…it seems. No one has change…they say. I wonder about his situation, wonder if I should take a coffee out to him. I do an inventory. Check my memory for action categories. And then I check my backpack for change. I have some and decide I’ll donate on my way out, when it’s time to head for work.

I’ll do my Hope Mission query with him, of which I have several versions depending on the encounter. They vary from probing and skinflintish, to, “No problem–and make sure you don’t spend this on food.”

The first time I used this later one, the guy dropped his hand and burst out laughing. I honestly can’t remember if I gave him any money. We had a good visit though. I used it too often after that, with varying responses. I don’t use it much anymore. But in the right context, with the right person, it’s a sure opening as it releases the little knot of tension inherent in that situation. And it’s certainly more engaging than proffering conditions that won’t be followed in any case.

A young lady just bought the panhandler a piece of coffee cake. He leans forward to thank her and I see that he is young with fine straight features.

Another lady comes in and reports him to the Starbucks staff. She seems satisfied, her humanitarian deed completed for the day.

Everyone gets tired of beggars. Do beggars get tired of begging?

I gather myself up to go and fish the loonie out of my pack. When I get outside there are two women talking to the young man. They’ve each given him money and a third woman is lined up behind them with a handful of change.

I decide against joining the que and pocket my pittance. I walk away with the unsteady thought that at this rate he’ll make more money than me today.

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