Leaving the supermarket yesterday I was approached in the parking lot as I was loading my groceries in our new vehicle. The woman and her son, who must have been 10 or 11, walked up and she asked, "Do you have any spare change?"
My immediate answer was no. I was taught to not give to people on the street. I give to a variety of charities regularly, including one that provides food to the needy. But to the people on the streets or in the parking lots, I just say no. Once I was walking with a friend as a guy playing guitar asked us for some change. She didn't hesitate as she walked over and handed him a one-dollar bill. I was shocked. But she's a very good person, and it's just in her nature.
After I said no yesterday, I watched them as they walked from person to person in the lot, asking for change. I noticed that they both looked rather skinny. I felt incredibly sad on so many levels. I especially felt bad for the boy. He didn't meet my gaze when his mother asked me for money. Perhaps she gets more handouts when she drags the boy with her, perhaps he's learning important lessons about life that I never did. But most of all I couldn't help thinking about how this could scar this child. We do so many things that could affect our children for the rest of their lives. Often we don't think about the impact until later. I wonder why that woman wouldn't just let her kid sit by the storefront and not drag him around. I really think this is a woman who cares about her family. She's doing what she can, what she knows to survive. As I pulled off, I watched her start her approach to another car. As she did, she grabbed her son's hand -- a natural maternal instinct in a crowded parking lot.
I wish -- instead of saying no, instead of giving money -- I had reached inside one of the grocery bags and pulled out something to give them. A can of soup or a box of fruit snacks could have made a difference to these people.
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