The other day, I was driving my son to his Little League game. As we got off the highway, a young man approached our car. He was begging for money.
He had a sad looking paper cup that he was using to collect any change that he might get. I grabbed a handful of coins from my center console and rolled down my window. The young man, barely out of his teens I would guess, walked over. I gave him the change. He thanked both of us, I rolled up the window and drove off as the light went green.
My son asked me why I gave him money. I told him that when someone asks you for something, and you are in the position to give it, you should. While I don’t have money to buy a new TV or a newer laptop this second, I do have some extra spare change.
I’m not sure my son understood what I told him next (he is only 5). I told him it is really hard to beg for money. You put yourself out there to be rejected over and over again. People judge you. They judge your motives. They make assumptions. I don’t care if that young man is going to use those 40 something cents I handed him to feed an addiction or to feed himself. That isn’t any of my business.
Perhaps at one point that young man was as pampered and catered to as my kids are. Maybe something happened that led him to that corner at the end of the Jackie Robinson Expressway. Or maybe his whole life has been a similar struggle. I don’t know. I ended by telling him if I can make a miniscule difference in one person’s life that is exactly what we need to do. I hope if my son doesn’t get it right now that the lesson is implanted in the back of his head for use at a later time.
A version of this first appeared on Great Moments in Bad Parenting.