Sunday, March 01, 2009

On Panhandling

Street people hurt when the temperature is below -20ºC and it really is not too difficult to reach into your pocket when their request is for your "spare change". But recently in Calgary I was faced with a lesser demand. "Could you spare a penny, Sir? I need to get together the bus fare to ---------."

A penny, I thought, why only a penny. Then I looked at the man, possibly in his twenties but cold and down-shouldered, hunched against the cold wind, his face unshaven, his clothes ill-fitting. Why would anyone ask for just a penny? I have to suppose it was a complete lack of self-esteem.

I gave him more than he asked for and as I walked away I suggested that in future he might set his sights a little higher. I wonder if he will.