I think it was last weekend that a kid approached me, asking for bus fare. At first I said I didn't have it. It was an automatic response. For one thing, we've been so broke for such a long time that I'm not used to having money in my pocket. When I realized I did actually have some change I called him back and gave him the two dollars. He wasn't asking for that much since tickets for kids are less than that, but it was all I had.
I saw this kid later, on the same bus, and he had traveled all the way across the city just like I had, and I was so glad I'd given him the money.
Tonight my daughter and I went grocery shopping. When we went out to the bus stop a gentleman a fair bit older than me (I'm 41) asked if one of us has a ticket or transfer. Again I automatically said no, and he thanked us politely and kept walking. By the time I realized I actually could spare a ticket because we had managed to keep our shopping trip short enough to ride home on the transfer, he was long gone. It was too late to change my mind. I stood there, beating myself up over it. The guy wasn't asking for drugs or cash. It was cold and he was looking for a ride home.
So, writing this is penance for me in a way. I spoke before thinking, and despite knowing that he probably got home just fine, I feel an apology is in order. I understand that I can't save the world, and he's not necessarily my responsibility, but I feel I have failed him as well as myself. I'm sorry I didn't give him the ticket or a couple of bucks. I'm sorry I spoke without thinking. I'm sorry enough that I'm going to make an effort to think first in the future, before responding to a request for help. All I want is to help people with the life I've been given, so I need to be open to doing so.
It's hard sometimes, to tell whether you're doing more harm than good, when it comes to helping a stranger on the street. If someone is begging for money, are you throwing it into a bottomless pit of drug abuse, or are you giving them something that will keep them from starving that day. Where is the line, and how do we know? Or, do we simply give and let them make the decision whether or not to use it for actual necessities?
Thankfully I live in a place that doesn't normally get that cold. Even if he had to walk to the other side of Hamilton, he wouldn't have frozen to death. Next time, though, I absolutely have to force myself to think before I answer. I'll be a lot less tormented about it later, that's for sure.