The man standing on the median, humorous or sad sign in hand. The woman sitting against the building with a cup in front of her. The young woman walking on the sidewalk towards me, rangy dog on a rope leash. I give money to these people when they ask me. Dollars, quarters, fives, whatever I have, and I’d like you to do the same. Not just for their benefit, but for your own.
First, let’s talk about why I give. The number one reason is because they’ve asked me to. Asking for money is hard. It’s counter to a lot of our social contracts with each other, because polite people don’t talk about salaries and cash and getting by. I know it’s against our social contract, because I used to be one of these people.
Yep, I was a “chugger,” ie: a charity mugger. And it was hard. Folks would be rude, or say obviously fake answers. The worst though, were those who breezed past, completely ignoring me. Answering my request for money was going to be a difficult and uncomfortable conversation, so instead, they pretended I didn’t exist. My humanity was made null. So I refuse to do this to other people. I will honor their person-hood, and I will always acknowledge someone who is asking for money, because it is damn hard.
The next reason why I give money to people who ask, is that I have enough. I have enough to spare $1 a day, or even just two quarters. Yes, it adds up to anywhere from $160 to $365/year, but those quarters were either going to sit in my car’s cup holder or go towards a breakfast taco anyway. Realistically, I wouldn’t have deposited that change into my bank account.
But, they’ll just use my dollar to buy beer/weed/cigarettes/etc, you might be saying inside yourself. My response is “Who cares?” You use your money to buy beer/weed/cigarettes/etc. But it’s my money, I earned it. There are two ways to respond to that. First, I could reply that they earned your dollar too. Standing for hours in the hot sun, on potentially injured feet, hips or legs, next to car tailpipes belching exhaust does not sound like a pleasant day off to me. I ride my bike around town, and I get uncomfortable and frustrated when I wait for a stop light, and that’s only a 5 minute hold at the very most. Add in the majority of folks not even making eye contact with you, and that sounds downright terrible. I think that’s work worth a dollar.
The other way to respond to the ‘earned’ question is to say that it doesn’t matter. That a gift freely given has no obligations. Once that dollar leaves your hand, and passes to them, it’s their dollar now, and they can do with it as they will. All humans deserve a little bit of vacation and fun in their lives, and if that one cigarette, or that one lottery ticket is their 15 minute vacation, then so be it. I’m glad I was able to give them a break. Life is hard, and their lives are certainly hard in a way that I cannot understand.
Ultimately though, the real reason I give, and why I think you should give too, is because it makes me feel good. There are multiple psychological studies and books that show that when practice generosity, we feel better. In fact, giving away money will make you feel like you have more money, and not less. We actually feel richer and more financially stable when we give. When we hold back, remembering “well I’ve got to watch my budget, no dollar for you sir.”, we feel poorer and more cash strapped.
It may be somewhat counterintuitive, but it is gravity that enables us to stand tall – that which seems to pull us down to earth and limit us actually enables us to expand upward. In teh same way, it is when we give that we feel most abundant. Giving sends a message to the universe that we have all we need. – Thrive
The small action of eye-contact, smiling, and handing over of a dollar, can have a tremendous impact. It’s an act of counter-culture, of mindfulness, of increasing the peace of the world. We recognize the humanity of those around us, those on the margins, and let them know that we value them. That they matter to us. In doing so, we boost our own self-esteem, self-confidence, and spiritual power. I always try to be an agent of change for good in the world, and I’d love for you to be change agents too. I challenge you tomorrow to give at least 50 cents to someone in need tomorrow. You’ll feel good, I promise.