Paris Goodnight: Handing over cash a dollar or two at a time

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 4, 2022

Since this is the season of giving and we tend to spread our good fortune a little more freely this time of year, I keep asking myself if giving money to someone on the street is the right thing to do when they ask. Or if they hold up a sign at a busy intersection, should we roll down the window and offer some cash right there on the spot?

That one I’ve never done. But I have given money to others if they ask as I walk along the streets of Salisbury. I had a buddy in Charlotte who purposely put a dollar bill or two in his pocket as he headed out to lunch, just in case someone asked, and that was his prompt to hand it over.

It’s not easy to walk on by or say something like, “No thank you, not today.”

I’ve answered that way several times, only to change my mind a few steps later or if I had second thoughts about it, and returned with a dollar or two to hand out. But I still wonder if I should or if that is only causing more panhandling downtown that’s not good for businesses and may not be that much of a help to the person getting the money anyway.

If it goes straight to a drug or alcohol habit, that’s not very helpful. And if it goes to a lottery ticket purchase, or something like that, I could just have easily thrown the money away myself. But does giving something away make that act any less charitable if it’s not used for something good? I don’t think so.

Maybe it’s my Presbyterian upbringing, but I still try my best to help out when I can, even if I’m not always sure what the right thing to do is. It’s those little bits of trying that seem to at least give me hope that I’m doing what I’m supposed to on this earth. I’ve heard tales from others, even some in my own household, of much larger amounts going to someone else, such as a much heftier tip than normal around Christmas time. I would never be accused of doing any such thing, but that’s more of my less than free-spending ways on anything, particularly tips.

Even though I’m ready to give a dollar away, most times I’m not asked. And I’ve been in larger cities with more of a homeless population than Salisbury’s and with many more people seeking handouts, but I can’t say I’ve been hassled by anyone in that situation. Goodness knows, it’s easy to imagine all the many ways that someone might end up in such a situation and it’s not usually because they’re aggressive in their nature.

This time of year offers plenty of options for more standardized assistance for those in need, including the Post’s own Christmas Happiness Fund that raises thousands of dollars each year for such purposes. That money goes through organizations set up to make the best use of whatever comes in instead of just handing money to someone. So feel free to add to that fund if you have cash to spare or a check you can write, and the donation will show up in the Post. But maybe you have other ways to quietly give to someone in need, and I’m sure that will be fine also. If I remember to put that extra dollar or two in my pocket the next time I head out, I imagine I’ll still give it to someone who asks as long as I am able.

Paris Goodnight is editor of the Salisbury Post.