This morning when I left my car and headed into the office, I left the bag containing my day's snack foods in it. I had an apple and some nuts.
At lunch I realized I still had a teensy bit of Christmas shopping left to do (I know I said I was finished, but one of my gifts isn't going to make it, so I had to find something else for this person). I went out to the Borders two exits up the highway from my office to find something.
When I exited the highway I saw a homeless man standing at the traffic light. I used to come through this area quite often and that man has been there many times before. I realized that I still had my bag of snacks with me. I thought it was some kind of cosmic coincidence. I had food in my car so I could give it to someone who needed it more than I did.
The light was red, so it was the perfect opportunity to offer my food to this man. I rolled down the window. He looked at me expectantly. I shoved the bag out the window and asked, "Would you like an apple?" He shook his head and gesticulated a lack of interest.
I'm a pretty sympathetic person. I know that I really have no idea how many paychecks separate me from the breadlines. I'm not heartless. I know hard times can happen to any of us. I want to help. I want to give someone who appears to be in need the benefit of the doubt.
My position is this: If you're truly hungry, you will accept food. I'm not saying I never give money. I just prefer not to give money because I have no idea how that money will be spent. I'm not buying some homeless person's cigarettes/booze/drugs. I'm happy to help fill an empty belly. I just want to make sure that's what the person really wants. I'd rather offer food. If you need it, you'll take it.
Am I wrong to feel a bit miffed in this case? I've been told that homeless people don't often like to be given hard fruits like apples because they often don't have the teeth to properly eat them. Despite this, I have seen homeless aid organizations give away free lunches that contain apples. I once gave an apple to a homeless person in the past and he took it gratefully.
On my way home I bought some soup for my lunch. Maybe I should have bought an extra one for that guy. How could he not want hot soup when he was standing outside on this freezing cold day? If had done that and he had refused it, I know I'd never take him seriously again.
If I'm on that road again and I have something soft to eat in my car in the future, maybe I'll give it a test. I don't want to lose my faith in humanity, especially in my own, but even I have my limits.