Something to chew on

Indulge me for a second and consider this scenario: let’s say you’re given the opportunity to donate some money to a desperate family who would use it to feed their children, but were only able to do so if you donated the same amount of money to someone you knew would use it to buy crack. Would you do it?

  • Amanda

    This is a toughie because I’ve seen what crack can do first hand to a relative…

    I would give the money. I couldn’t control it either way since it’s a gift. Like, you can’t be mad at the bum on the street for going to buy alcohol with the money you drop in his cup b/c once you give it it’s not yours anymore… I feel like the same kind of applies here.

    Or I just sounded really stupid.

  • RzDrms

    #264: because crack is, by far, a more powerful addiction than food, believe it or not.

  • Cindy Z

    I would go and buy food for the family instead of money.

  • Anonymous

    No question. Donate the money. (And secretly hope that maybe the crack addict gets caught.)

  • Stephanie


  • Andy


    Being the cynic I am, I am convinced the crack-head would score the drug with or without my money. Maybe by robbing and stealing.

    But the hungry family would stay hungry.

    Alas, this is not a choice that scales well (i.e. helping one third world country, but only if you help a neighboring dictatorship).

  • essdee


    Donate my time in soup kitchens, half-way homes and other programs to help hungry families and crack heads? Yes. Fork over money to be used however the family and crack head see fit? No.

    Money does not fix problems. Money is a band-aid.

  • Anonymous

    I am blown away by some of the downright cruel comments being posted. Lack of compassion and disdain for those you perceive as beneath you are horrible character flaws and you should be ashamed to be posting about it, not flaunting it. Katie #973 and numerous other posts like hers, I just want to throw up knowing there are heartless people like you in the world. I remember hearing that 25% of the human race are sociopaths. Thanks for proving it!

  • Sarah

    Of course I would! Yeah, crack is whack and all that (and I apologize, I’m sure someone has posted that already), but I really look at it as doing 2 good deeds. The addict WILL find a way to get their fix, and at least this time he or she will not be stealing, doing violence to others or selling themselves to do so. Win win.

  • Anonymous

    I’d give food, not money. That’s it.

  • Mrs McP

    Yes I would.

  • Ariel

    You feed the hungry kids.
    Cause they don’t have a choice.

  • krissykristan

    No. When I first read this, I thought, “Yes. Yes, of course.” But then I realized I face this decision almost every day when I pass the homeless on the street asking for money, and my answer is never “yes.”

    I live in Santa Monica, Calif., a predominantly affluent area (which results in numerous, well-funded social services) with a lot of tourist traffic. It’s a draw for the down-and-out. There are just so many of them, at least two every 20 feet in shopping areas. How do I give to one and not another? So I don’t give to the people with cardboard signs; I hope my tax money is in the hands of people who can better prevent its going toward the wrong channels than these scenarios allow me to do. So far, it seems to be, relative to other areas I’ve lived in.

    I’m fortunate—extremely fortunate—to live in a place where elected officials continue to prioritize funding for addressing mental illness and homelessness, as well as other issues I consider important uses of our collective money and industriousness, and I’m proud to live here for that reason. I don’t want to live anywhere that isn’t the case. Then again, I do, and that’s why I am more interested than ever in the people and outcome of this national election.

    I guess my answer, in short, to that family would be this, “I’m not giving half of this money in my hand to you. I’m giving it all to these people over here who I trust will give it to you.” But again, I’m fortunate to live in a place where that trust has been well-placed. Other places I’ve lived, I might have given a different answer.

  • Danielle Black

    I would pay.

  • Jennifer

    Give both families a food basket, then the crackhead would have to sell the food to get the money or trade it for crack–but at least all your money would buy food!

  • Moriya

    No. Funny you should post this today because after a lot of soul searching I’ve recently come to conclusion that if anything regarding money resulted in a negative outcome, EVEN if part of it was positive, that it’s not worth it.

    1 good + 1 bad = right where you started.

    Good timing, Dooce. Love your blog.

  • Jannie Funster

    BTW, what’s the catch?

  • Sarah

    Oh MY GOD! I love ya Heather but the startle post above this one scared me so bad I am now having contractions. FFS give a girl some warning!

  • schmoop


  • maren

    If this IS a political posting, may I add to the discourse? People, at least thoughtful people, tend to choose candidates based on their values. So if you value a society that takes care of its people, that helps those who cannot help themselves, the choice in this election seems clear.

    In addition, a group of authors (which includes me) who have written books on business, leadership, social justice and community have banded together to talk about the leadership qualities that will best serve our country. This comes from people who have expertise in this arena. Please check it out:

  • Anonymous

    If children are involved, yes. And then I would intervene through legal channels and my own resolve, because the crack addicted parent or relative connected to this family might be responsible for this family’s desperation. Extract the children and remain involved. Child advocacy is what my life is all about.

  • Terri

    Definitely, would give the money, without hesitation. When you “give” money you do it from the heart and can’t control what people will do with it. What if the needy family just bought soda and chips with the money?

    Yep, I’d give the money and try not to think about what was done with it.

  • shannon

    Absolutely. I didn’t even hesitate in thinking about it. I have never batted an eye at the thought that, when I give someone on the street money, they might use it to buy drugs or alcohol. I can only imagine that if I were in their shoes – and there have been times in my life when that scenario was easier to imagine than it is now – I would be looking for escape as well. Does it solve the problem to hand over my pocket change? No, of course not. Does it help that person? Maybe. The answer probably depends on how you define “help.”

    I would hope that if I were ever truly faced with this “dilemma” I would be able to offer more than just money to both parties. Money rarely fixes all problems, but it sure does make it easier to address them.

  • Gillian

    Yep. I bet both parties would say “thanks” and be happy for the donation. The crack habit isn’t going to stop just because you didn’t give them any.

  • Anonymous

    Dang, Dooce, you have a great, generous readership overall, but those Republicans stand out like a sore and ugly thumb. ‘Tis a pity.

    I would give the money. Although I have to say I have recently discovered one of those places where you put together meals and freeze them and I would probably do that instead, just because they’re so easy and delicious for someone like me, who has a car and a little free time. The crackhead might like it, too!


  • Jannie

    Sure, because the crack-head’s gonna find the drug somewhere anyway but the hungry ones may be depending on me alone.

  • Anonymous

    A few days ago I asked my 12-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter what they would do if they saw a poor-looking family (mom, dad, baby) at Target and the father was stealing baby formula.
    My daughter said she would call a friend and them what she saw, but she would not tell any authority.
    My son said he would offer to pay for the formula.
    My daughter’s answer did not surprise me–typical teenager with a cell phone. My son, who NEVER has any money, was able to see outside of the lines—and speak to what SHOULD happen. If he had it–it was theirs!

  • ck

    I may be reading into this too much, but if this is supposed to be some kind of analogy to pork barrel spending, it is a poor one. I apologize if I am searching for a political angle, but the posts of late seem to invite that type of thinking.

  • Raeann

    Yes. We cannot eliminate welfare just because people abuse the system.

  • Amy from KY

    I would buy them food, rather than give them money. Giving money will enable an addict, whom will use the money improperly.

  • Lerren

    Yup. And already have. Doesn’t bother me.

  • Noelle Buttry

    Totally agree with Mary. Cook for the needy family. In fact, just last week I took home-cooked food to a guy lying on the sidewalk under a blanket. And I’m a Republican, God forbid.

  • Texchic

    Hell no! Throwing good money away benefits no one. Help the hungry find jobs to feed their children and take care of their families, and guide crackheads to rehab. Money doesn’t solve this problem.

  • Diana

    Please, how in the world would that ever be a real life situation? And most of these commentators have probably never donated in their life…because there are plenty of hungry families waiting, now…without the crackhead stipulation. Are they donating now???

  • MG

    First, when I read this last night, there were only ~150 comments; now, there are over 1,000. Why does that amaze me so? I don’t know…but it does.

    Second, I’m calling bullshit on all of you “I would make the family dinner/give a basket of food or grocery gift cards” people. I’m in no position to debate the validity of the “conservatives donate more money annually than liberals do” comment, but I am confident that the vast majority of you have not and do not regularly go out of your way to attend personally to the needs of a hungry family. Perhaps you give through church, or the United Way, or to a local food bank, in hope that those agencies will verify need before providing their services…but you’re not going down into the ‘hood on a Wednesday night to drop off a casserole for Mom (who DOES work–full time as a teacher in a daycare center, no less–whose salary sort of covers the rent and utilities and gas, if by “sort of” you mean alternating months for paying the various utilities, or sending partial payments) and her four young kids.

    There will always be people who take advantage and work the system. And there will, unfortunately, always be people who work hard, but do not earn enough to get by without some assistance. I’m pretty much the working poor myself, but I pay my taxes without complaining…just as I would if I made five or six times as much as I do now.

  • Unbalanced Libra

    I already donate to poor people – the government takes that from me via taxes. You know, the money tat goes to all those government programs that the bleeding heart liberals feel we need.
    You can take the crack addict out of the equation, I still wouldn’t donate to the poor family.

  • Indiana Brit

    Yes. You can’t punish the family for what the crack addict is doing.

  • Shannon Jenkins

    Short answer: yes. Long answer: I once read a book by Father Hesburgh. At the beginning, he tells the story of how he once gave money to a beggar (in the U.S.). His companion chides him, saying that the guy was probably just going to take the money to buy booze or drugs. Father Hesburg replied (to paraphrase) that that might be the case and it might be true 99 times out of 100, but that he’d rather be taken those 99 times than miss the one person who truly needed help. That has really stuck with me all these years after reading it. I’m also convinced that’s the difference between liberals and conservatives. Liberals focus on the 1, conservatives focus on the 99. I obviously fall into the former group, but I’m not sure who’s right – just a different way of looking at the world.

  • uncommonblonde

    For sure. Drug addicts often find a way to get the money anyway (I know I sound like a jerk). It would be worth it to feed the family. After 700 comments you probably have your answer

  • christina

    how ignorant are all of you who said yes? if you have a job that takes taxes out of your paycheck you already donate against your will to feed, house, clothe the druggies who are unwilling to get off drugs and make a better life for themselves. WAKE UP AMERICA… The more we continue to support these “poor” people the more people continue to take advantage of the system. Get a clue. If you work hard for your money you should be able to keep it. We’ve all heard the phrase “work harder..millions of people on welfare are depending on you” STOP THE MADNESS.

  • Jo

    Absolutely I would. Didn’t even have to think about it really.

  • Jennifer B.

    Yes! I agree with the comments relating to helping those in need, let those who choose to abuse themselves suffer later. And, from personal experience even drug addicts who are given help, can and DO change! (If they are ready to.) I won’t ever stop trying to help others.

  • Anonymous

    We’re talking about politics here, so I am amswering in that realm.

    Answer is no.

  • Madeline

    I grew up in a very diverse area, where the very wealthy and the very poor lived practically side by side. I once worked with a woman who also drove a transit bus for the county. She told me of this family that kept their teenage daughters pregnant to “keep the welfare coming.” I’ve seen countless examples of kindess being abused.

    I would absolutely give money to a family who needs it to help pay for food for their children. I would even do so given your stipulations, but lest we forget that there are always people spitting in the faces of those trying to help. I suppose it gets under everyone’s skin that their good intentions are pimped out to petty criminals and liars as well as good, honest people who, try as they might, cannot make ends meet.

    What can you do?

  • Debi

    If those are the only two options, yes. I would always help a hungry child, given the chance.

  • Ashee

    Without thinking, yes, I would give the money if I had it.

  • Tracy

    Yes, I’d give it. The crackhead will find money somehow anyway to feed the crack habit, so it’s not like the end result there will be any different. But the hungry family might actually be helped.

  • Salt City Miss

    Without a doubt yes!

    BTW, I could waste an entire day just reading the comments here and rolling my eyes at some of the “insights” of your readers. Personally I have no idea how you get anything done with the amount of reading you must do every day.

  • Tracy

    I’d give the money, for the children. The crackhead will find a way to get high with or without my money. The family will a much more difficult time finding food.

  • Amanda

    Why do we have to box ourselves into a situation where in order to alleviate one problem, we have to compromise something else? There has to be a better way. Are we just not willing to work to find it?