You walk past a junkie on the street. He puts out his hand. How do you react?
a. You ignore him.
b. You smile and greet him.
c. You make fun of him and walk away.
d. You give him money.
I presented this question to my fifth graders. They didn’t circle the right answer. They don’t recognize shared humanity yet. They will, in time. However, it turns out, that I didn’t know the correct answer to this question either. Most of the time I react to people asking me for money by either ignoring them or smiling at them and apologizing for not having any money to give them. It turns out, I’ve been wrong all along; I should have been paying them off.
Let me explain.
One of the other white people in Georgetown told me that every so often it’s a good idea to give some money to the people on the street who are constantly asking for money. The reason for this is because everyone knows where “the white guy” lives. I may not remember every person I encounter on the street, but they’re going to remember me—they’re going to remember the white guy. They’re going to know where I go, the places I frequent, and the building I live in. So, having people in the neighborhood, especially the ones who are consistently on the streets, in your good graces can go a long way. It may cost me $100 to pay off the guy on the street who sticks out his hand, but it may pay me back later when my home isn’t robbed. The man on the street would either be able to speak highly of me to the people who may want to rob me, or, he may assist in stopping the burglary. It’s kind of cool to think of the neighborhood looking out for one another instead of allowing thieves to go after each other’s property.
I’m still considering whether I’ll start giving handouts to the homeless on our street. Something tells me it’ll just make them expect more out of me. Plus, our neighbors (who practically own this street) have already told us that they look out for our house for us. “You guys ever have any problems, you just send the people down to house 348.”