On Friday night, I went out to dinner at a local restaurant with a friend of mine. It was a very good meal, and he even offered to pay for it (I tried to decline, but was unsuccessful). As we were walking out, we were approached by a panhandler who handed us a packet of poetry and asked us for money. He claimed to be a homeless Vietnam veteran and he showed us a scar on his belly that he says was from a shrapnel wound.
Now I’m not a medical expert, so I can’t say that it was in fact a shrapnel wound. But I can imagine that anything that could cause such a scar was probably not too pleasant. Anyway, he seemed relatively sincere, and I reached into my pockets to see if I had any spare change. Unfortunately, I was cashless.
Ninety-nine out of a hundred times, I would just shrug my shoulders and walk away. But for some reason I can’t explain, I asked him if I could buy him anything. He promptly responded that he wanted a barbecue chicken and a Pepsi. So me and my friend went and inside and ordered exactly that.
I was taken aback by how quickly he knew what he wanted. In fact, my friend had offered him his leftovers from our dinner, but the man refused. Apparently, beggars can be choosers. But still I went in and got him his meal, which cost me 15 dollars and 15 minutes of waiting.
While I was waiting, I felt the pang of regret for taking so much time to help this one man. What would I say to the next one who came up to me? What if this guy was just a lying crackhead? Oh my god, I’m really spending $15 on this.
I calmed down a bit, and finally the order came. I grabbed it off the counter and I took outside to the man, who was patiently sitting at one of the tables. I handed him his meal, he thanked me, and then my friend and I were on our way.
Why did I do that? I don’t know. Today I passed another beggar on the street and I completely ignored her. Was that fair? I can’t say. I’ll admit that I felt a little regretful, but not strongly enough to do anything about it. Looking back, I don’t think I would do it again. What really killed it for me was that he refused our initial offer of fettuccine alfredo. If someone on the street is picky about what you give them, then they don’t need it in the first place. That $15 I spent could be put to better use than feeding someone who doesn’t need money for food.
I don’t know what came over me when I decided to buy that man food. First world problems at their finest, huh?