The rhetorical question

Last week I posed a completely rhetorical hypothetical question about whether or not you would donate money to a starving family on the condition that you would have to give the same amount of money to someone who would use it to buy crack. Contrary to what some people have argued, this was not a question I was going to use to pin people into a corner, nor was it a way to preach my political views. In fact, it wasn’t even a metaphor for the bail out, I hadn’t even thought about that until someone suggested it in the comments. But I can completely see how you could view it as such.

I was genuinely interested in what I knew were going to be a wide variety of responses and the reasons behind those responses. I didn’t give my opinion at first because I didn’t want that in any way to affect your honest answers, but now that so many have weighed in with thoughtful reasons why they would or would not (and some not so thoughtful), I’ll go ahead: I absolutely would give the money. No questions. Not a second thought.

That does not mean that I think you are an evil monster if you disagree with me, and perhaps I should explain my reasons for asking it in the first place. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to know that it has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with my older brother, Ranger.

I am the youngest of three children. My sister September is five years older than I am, my brother three. My sister and I were somewhat close growing up, but she was already in love with the man who would become her husband by the time I had reached an age where we had anything in common. I was much closer to my brother, and he was my hero. I thought he was the brightest and funniest person alive, and in high school I was proud whenever I got a teacher who had taught Ranger before me. They always gave me special treatment as Ranger’s little sister because he was charming, hard-working, and a total smart aleck. I remember sitting in my Freshman Biology class hearing Ranger and his physics teacher next door screaming jokes at each other to see who could out wit their opponent, and since my Biology teacher had taught Ranger three years before SHE TOTALLY KNEW what was going on. Several times she stopped class to laugh into her sleeve, and to my horror she would announce to everyone, “That’s Heather’s brother you hear. I love that guy.”

I loved that guy, too, and when he left for college the next year it broke my heart. I was the only child left in the house, and I didn’t have my brother there to tell me stories or to make me laugh. The first semester of my sophomore year was lonely, but when he returned home for Christmas vacation it was as if he had never left, perhaps even better than when he’d left because now he had all these stories about his roommates at BYU and the adventures they got themselves into to distract themselves from wanting to have sex. Even 18 years later when he mentions one of those roommates I can remember exactly who he’s referring to and whether or not he was the one who dressed up as Condom Man for Halloween.

But something happened during that Christmas vacation that changed a fundamental part of me, and I bet you he doesn’t even remember this. I’d forgotten about it until last week when my brother and I met for lunch, and sitting there across from him at that sushi restaurant and listening to his stories I remembered what a profound effect his influence has had on me.

It was Christmas 1990, and he and I went shopping at a local mall to find gifts for the family. It was bitterly cold outside made worse by a cutting wet breeze, winters in Memphis are like that, and as we pulled out of the parking lot at the mall we passed a man standing on the median of the road selling single stem roses for $2. He was wearily disheveled, not dressed at all for the weather, and looked like he hadn’t eaten in days. He could have been starving, but he also could have been a drug addict. I’ll never know.

We’d always been taught that you ignore these people, they’ll take your money and use it to buy booze, or they’re somehow scamming you. Better to keep your money and do something more productive with it. Except Ranger pulled right up to the man, handed him a twenty dollar bill and said, “I’d like a rose for my sister,” and he pointed toward the passenger seat. “I haven’t seen her in months.”

The man looked down at the bill as if he were holding a fragile newborn animal, and his hands started to shake.

“Aw man,” he said. “I ain’t got no change for this. You got something smaller?”

“No,” said Ranger, and then as he shifted the car into drive he continued, “Please keep it.”

The window was still down as the car pulled away, and I’ll never forget how he called after us, “YOU’LL NEVER KNOW, MAN! YOU’LL NEVER KNOW!”

As we pulled up to a stop light in silence Ranger finally spoke up. “I saw him when we first drove into the parking lot hours ago. No telling how long he’s been out there, and he doesn’t have change for a twenty? LET HIM HAVE MY TWENTY.”

I asked Ranger if he cared what that man did with the extra money and he said he hadn’t even thought about that. It was just evident that the man selling roses needed those extra eighteen dollars more than he did. It felt like the right thing to do.

Does this mean that I give money to every homeless person or beggar I encounter? No, but I have frequently, and am inclined to err on the side of charity because of my brother’s example. (And yes, this can be extended to all sorts of volunteer work and charity) And there have been many instances when I’ve ignored the homeless because of the very thought that they would use the money I gave them to do something stupid, and without fail I regret that impulse. And then I wonder why I had that impulse in the first place, and then struggle with myself when I experience that impulse again. Because I have to believe that even if only one of the hundreds of people uses that money to feed themselves or their dog or their hidden, desperate children, or even if they use it to have a more comfortable night than the one they had last night, then we will have done right in every instance by fighting that impulse.

  • http://knaphrodesiac.blogspot.com Karen

    Is it wrong that I want to slap the face of every single person who commented with “the people who don’t realize that her question is actually about the bailout are STUPID”?

    Probably, but I have to believe that even if only one of the hundreds of those assholes that I’d love to slap use that sting as an opportunity to not be such dickheads next time you ask a rhetorical question, than I will have done right by possibly ridding the readers of this blog from having to hear their holier than thou attitudes.

  • Anonymous

    I love how last week when this was thought to be about welfare and crack addicts people wouldn’t part with their hard earned money. And now Heather come’s up with a sweet story about sharing and helping and everyone is saying how much they DO help and want to help.

  • http://relentlessolive.wordpress.com/ Relentless Olive

    I applaud your ability to spontaneously give to people in need. The only drawback is that these kinds of ‘donations’ are a fleeting and inconsistent way to provide for these vulnerable people.

    It is good to give $20 (a pitance, even in these troubling economic times) to a homeless person, but I would hope we would all go home and send another $20–on a weekly or monthly basis–to a homeless shelter or food pantry that can use it’s buying power and non-profit status to feed 10x as many people. We’ll never be able to conquer hunger and homelessness until we tackle them in a systematic and consistent way.

  • Laura

    That’s a great story, thanks for sharing. I respectfully disagree, but I understand your reasoning and part of me wishes I had the same optimism. My problem is that – yes – one out of 10 might take that money and put it to good use. But if that means there are nine others who put it to ill use – feeding their addiction, crime, etc – that becomes a burden on society. And I’ve created that burden.

    I don’t know what the answer is for the homeless and hungry problem in our country. I know it’s not “Get a job!” But I don’t think it’s throwing money at them either. That said, I always give them food when I have it to spare, and always respect.

  • Jenn

    Heather, thank you so much for sharing this story. I don’t know if I can pinpoint one situation above any others that caused it, but somewhere along the road of my upbringing, I came to the same conclusion as you – that regardless of what they do with the money, I’d like to believe that if they are standing there, stripped of most of their integrity as a human being, asking for whatever others will give, then I don’t think it’s my place to judge them or decide if they are worthy. I think that for the majority of people who find themselves in those situations, it is a last resort and a very difficult one to accept. Sure, a few people have abused the charity of others, and I’m sure many more spend what is given to them on things they want or need that most of us might not see as an immediate need – but who are we to judge? Have we walked in their shoes? Lived their life? No.
    I do remember one time in college, I was getting off the freeway by my house on my way home for a weekend visit. A man was standing on the street corner and he had a sign. Without letting myself fight the urge to give – because society tells us not to, I rolled down the window and handed him what little cash I had with me. I will never forget the honest gratitude in his eyes and in his simple words, but even more than that, our hands touched as I handed him what I could. In that one little touch, that very short contact before the light was green and I had to drive off, I was overwhelmed with the feeling of this being the right thing to do. Tears filled my eyes as I thought of the stories I was taught as a child, that Jesus will come back to Earth someday. And how will he come back? As a rich and powerful leader? No, I was taught that Jesus will come back and he will walk among us – as an everyday person. I was raised Catholic and never memorized Bible verses, but I do know that Jesus said, whatever you did for the least of them, you did for me.

  • http://www.conversationswithcaroline.blogspot.com Trinity

    Thank you, Heather for the reminder about human decency without conditions.
    All I can say is what I’ve said before: I don’t know you, but I really adore you.
    Keep posting!
    Trinity

  • Lola

    Thanks for this story…it’s truly wonderful.

  • Jessica

    I cried when I read this at work and then I cried when I read it again at home. Heather, thank you for sharing this – I look at them in a new light now.

  • Robyn

    Lovely anecdote–just what I needed today amidst all the frightening McCain/Palin hate-mongering. Thanks to you…and Ranger.

  • http://notbychoice.tumblr.com/ Kristina

    Dooooooooooooooooooce. You got tears. That story makes me yearn for the relationship I could have had with my brother if only I’d recognized when I was a kid what an awesome person he was. Instead, I treated him like shit, and now he’s grown and probably not really interested in hearing me apologize. Sigh. I might try to though, anyway.

  • Katrisha M

    Thanks. Just thanks.

    Oh, and tell your brother thanks, too.

  • http://themellburyobserver.typepad.com kb

    Ever since having my daughter three and a half years ago, I always think that the person asking for money is someone’s child. I hope with all of my being that my daughter is never in such a position and so if I have money on me, I give what I can.

  • luckiest girl in the world

    seriously, thanks for that. it’s a daily battle and every moment i can be more compassionate is one when i like myself a little better.

  • Jenjifer

    I just have one question: how is it that you have siblings named ‘September’ and ‘Ranger’, yet the best your parents could come up with for you was ‘Heather’? Not that ‘Heather’ isn’t a perfectly fine name, it just doesn’t get you on a soap opera.

    Oh, and I think my heart grew three sizes reading your story. I think I love you, but not in a creepy stalker way.

  • renee

    Nice story, good brother. But mainly I wanted to tell you that I saw your friend Maggie in the Times yesterday and thought hey, I know her! Looks like a nice apartment.

  • Kathy

    Thank you for the “rest of the story”. I read your question last week and did not respond to it, but will say here that I would give money to the family and the crack head. This has nothing to do with my politics or anyone else’s but more about how I felt at that moment and hoping when you help someone that maybe yours was the handout they used to buy the food or warm clothes for themselves or their children. That maybe an earlier handout paid for the beer or crack for that day and yours was the bonus that provided a life sustaining need.

    I flew to Houston this last weekend to visit with my husband and adult sons who still live in Texas. On Monday of this week my husband and I drove to downtown Houston to see the devastation from hurricane Ike and was surprised how quickly windows have been replaced, debris removed or piled waiting to be removed. While walking around we were approached by a homeless gentleman. He proceeded to explain he had been stranded in Houston and was sleeping in the parks and was in need of medical care. Immediately my husband reaches into his pocket but before he pulls out the loose change or dollar bill the man says “no, no please wait until I finish”. He proceeded to remove his left shoe to show us his toes and why he needed some ointment from the pharmacy to help what appeared to be a severe fungal infection, frostbite (from where I do not know since it was not freezing in Houston) or necrotic tissue from God knows what – his toes were black and swollen. I suggested he head for the Texas Medical Center to the emergency room for medical attention, gave him directions, and my husband dug deeper and handed him all the change and dollar bills that were in his pocket. He thanked us profusely and walked off. We later saw him riding on the handlebars of a bicycle and sort of headed in the direction of the medical center. I turned to my husband and wondered out loud if we were not the biggest suckers in the world and probably what we saw were really dirty, muddy toes. Did we feel fooish? A little. Would we do it again, yes, because at that moment we were able to help with a few extra bucks and just maybe he headed to a pharmacy and not the local liquor store or street corner drug dealer.

  • http://seismictwitch.com naomi

    not long ago there was a guy who was outside a drug store with his puppy. he was asking people for some money to buy some food for his dog. i didn’t get to see a whole lot because i was sitting in the car, but bran spoke to him and then went inside. bran didn’t give him money because he had no cash on him. however, he bought a few items of food (including some cheese strings) and a bag of puppy food along with the stuff he was picking up for us. when he got out he gave the bag with dog food in it to the guy and then walked back to the car. the guy was very grateful. it was more than obvious that the guy was hungry too, hence the reason bran picked up a few food stuffs as well as the puppy food.

    it’s not always money that can make te difference. sometimes the caring takes material form. the thing is the caring along with the giving.

  • http://held-prisoner-in-hampton-roads.blogspot.com/ Bulldog

    As I was leaving a grocery store, I was approached by a young lady I’d guess to be about 35. She looked to be tired, and more than a little distressed. She told me she was embarassed to ask, but had spent her last money on food for her kids, but hadn’t checked her gas gauge and was afraid she couldn’t make it back home. She pointed to a beat-up old car. I could see a baby seat and some toys, but no kids were in the car.

    Now, I don’t give handouts to everyone who asks for them, but this lady’s story just seemed believable. I gave her a ten, and she thanked me several times, and there was a tear in the corner of her eye.

    After she left, another lady who had been watching decided to butt in:

    Her: Boy, she really took you in.
    Me: Pardon?
    Her: How stupid can you be? She’s just going to buy drugs with that.
    Me: Maybe, but at least she isn’t a nosy BITCH who can’t mind her own business.

  • Vicki

    Heather thanks. I’ve been struggling with this for years…. sometimes giving and sometimes not. But this example will stay with me and from now on I’ll choose to give something.

  • http://humhumviz.typepad.com/humhumviz/ Pam

    I love this story, you never know what moment will touch someone when and in how many ways. I’ll bet several faeries got their wings that moment.

    And, hearing your brother’s name made me smile hugely, being the name of a favorite mind candy novel character that I love.

    I lived in Seattle for quite a while one charity? was hiring people in wheelchairs to sell roses on street corners. Problem was, it would drop these folks off and then make rounds with the van regardless of the trials of Seattle weather. When I noticed this one day I drove by and realized I could reach out and hand my umbrella I never used right out the window to the person. (once you’ve lived there for a while you give up on umbrellas) The fellow looked astounded and then lit up and just grinned and yelled and waved as he popped it up and gave me the thumbs up in the mirror.

    After that I started collecting umbrellas in my car and handing them out the window whenever I could to whom ever seemed to need them whether it was the person in the chair or the woman sleeping against the wall. It was the strangest form of charity and possibly one of the most appreciated I’d ever participated in.

    I realized after I moved I was still in the habit of collecting umbrellas and didn’t have as many people to give them to and had about 20 in my car when I cleaned it out.

  • Hope

    My Aunt and Uncle had a Condo in Downtown Seattle, that was a couple blocks away from Pike Place Market. You would always pass at least 5-10 homeless people on your way to The Market. I was told at an early age, not to give them any moeny-because they would only spend it on booze. Instead, buy some Apples, and give them an apple. That way, you know that they were eating something healthy-and also, the Apple was so healthy, it might kill them. That was my Uncle’s dry sense of humor. I have purchased McDonalds Meal for homeless people before as well. At least I know they are eating.
    Thank you for your story. It sounds like you were raised with a very cool older brother.

  • http://www.thedunnshow.wordpress.com Kristen

    Thanks for this. Wish I could tell you how it helps me process all the craziness…a resounding “YOU’LL NEVER KNOW, MAN. YOU’LL NEVER KNOW!” Totally inspiring.

  • Junglewife

    I’ve never commented before, but I just wanted to say something. I haven’t read the other comments so maybe someone else has said this before me.

    I’m a Christian, and as far as I can remember (I don’t have my Bible in front of me) Jesus told us to give to the poor. He didn’t say we could get rid of poverty, in fact he told us that the poor would ALWAYS be with us. BUT, he didn’t qualify his command to give to the poor with a “if they’re not going to use it for something bad” or the like.

    I live in a 3rd-world country and it is VERY difficult for me to keep this in mind, with so many people wanting my help. I just have to remember that the only thing I have any control over is what I do, not what other people do after I have given to them. Heather, thanks for your insightful comments. I may not always agree with you on everything you write, but I always enjoy your perspective!

  • Mercedes Millberry

    The best story I ever saw on this topic was an episode of “Sports Night.” It was incredibly powerful. One of the characters asks another why he gave money to a homeless person. “Aren’t you afraid he will use it buy booze?” The response was that most of the people who were begging for change like that weren’t one meal away from not being homeless and if it was booze that helped them make it through another day, then let them buy booze. And in this case, at least the man was trying to better himself through capitalism, not just begging. This profoundly changed my view. I was one of those people who would hand out food, leftovers from a restaurant, something like that, which I have come to believe may be more insulting to a person’s humanity than anything else that I could do. I have changed my attitude completely.

  • Jessica

    This story made me cry b/c im a huge sap like that. When i lived in florida I always had bottles of water in my car and whenever i would see someone on the side of the road begging or hitchhiking, i would give them a bottle of water. i once gave 2 bottles to a homeless man with a dog on a scrap of a leash at a corner. He started crying and telling the dog they would be ok….

  • Rebecca

    Beautiful story. How wonderful of your brother do that for that man. Hopefully it was used in a positive and not a negative way.

    I come across these people a lot too where I live but usually it is inside a store somewhere where they are just walking around asking for money for something to eat. I was with my husband once and this happened where a kid wanted money because he had not eaten in days. I normally walk away or ignore them because I fear if I open my wallet or reach in my purse they’ll grab it, try to scam or rob me, etc. Anyway, my husband said to the man, “No, I won’t give you any money, but if you want I will buy you a sandwich so you can eat.” I thought that was absolutely brillant. He has done that a couple of times since then. He’s never been rejected but he has gotten some surprised looks before accepting. Just thought I’d share :)

  • http://therandomramblingsofaworkingmom.blogspot.com/ Kim

    Your sister’s name is September? And your brother is named Ranger? Did your parents run out of unique when you were born or did they just stop smoking pot?

    Maybe it’s a good thing :)

  • http://allplaces.blogspot.com Katie

    I agree totally, and I always get scolded by my co-workers when I give money to people on the street. I look at it this way: God has blessed me with money, shelter, food, etc., so it’s not really “my” money to begin with. If someone asks me for a dollar or whatever, I’m okay with just giving it to them without worrying what they’re going to use it for. I am not called to oversee how people spend their money. I am called to be generous…so I am!

  • Sue Ellen

    I read your story and was touched, indeed. Sweet brother and it influenced a compassionate and witty sister.

    That said, it still doesn’t change my answer. I said that I would help the people rather than throw money at them. And, yes, I walk the walk rather than just talking the talk. I believe that if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach the man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. I do donate money to causes that I have carefully researched and that have a record of fiscal responsibility – I would rather do that than have any of the money that I have worked so hard to earn and save go in a crack pipe.

  • Darcy

    We should all be more kind and more generous and less selfish and try to be more charitable. I don’t think most people realize how easy it can be to go from having a home to not having a home. To go from having money to losing it all. Without health insurance, a serious accident could bankrupt someone. Without home insurance, a fire or a flood could put someone out on the street.

    And people who say that they don’t give money to the homeless because they’re afraid the money will go to buy booze or cigs or drugs? Please – that’s not the real reason they don’t give money. But it makes a great excuse, huh?

  • http://www.issascrazyworld.blogspot.com Issa

    I loved your question the other day, Heather; and I loved reading the responses. I said I’d give the money to both, no question.

    The one thing my step-mother did which made a good impression on me as a kid, was in regards to this. We were somewhere in LA and a homeless guy had a sign and she gave him 15 bucks or something. A guy in a suit started yelling at her, telling her what a bad person she was for helping this scum, who was going to buy booze with it or whatever. How in the world could you teach your children to be so careless, he said. She said, yes, he could, but he could also buy food. And booze, on a cold night can keep him warm. Then she said, every person is deserving of help when they need it and it’s not for me to judge.

    These words have stuck with me, my entire life. I couldn’t have been more than 8 years old when that happened. It’s on of the things I remember when I want to disown the dam woman. I always remember that line, it’s not for me to judge, when I hand money to a homeless person.

  • http://www.princesseemma.com/ Emma

    I really loved that story about your brother.

    My first reaction was to give the money and after reading your post today I think maybe that’s the right way to go.
    The honest reason that I often don’t give money to the people I see on the street is that I don’t have it. Usually I don’t have any cash on me at all (my pay gets all used up to pay my bills).
    So I donate my time when I can to Lifeline (www.lifeline.org.au). Do you have Lifeline in the US? It’s a 24 hour telephone counselling service that offers crisis counselling and suicide intervention. Or we’re just there if people need someone to talk to. And so many people don’t have anyone to talk to but us.

    Thanks for your posts Dooce. I loved today’s. I also love your monthly newsletters to Leta. I don’t understand why some people have a problem with you counting her age in months – I think it’s beautiful that you write to her each month. It’ll be so nice for her to read later.

    Also I loved today’s Daily Photo! Great to see Lou is still going strong :-)

  • Kate

    That story struck such a chord with me. I was off to yoga class last week and saw a man with his cap out at an intersection. I see him on Sundays regularly I think because traffic is heavier since there’s a huge church in the area. He always looks so hopeful and has the sweetest smile. I smiled and shook my head. He smiled back, bowed a bit and went up the line. I changed my mind and called to him but he couldn’t hear me and the light changed. But I kept thinking about him and wondering. On my way back I looked for him so I could give him something but no luck. So here’s hoping I see him again this Sunday! There’ll be no hesitation.
    Thanks for a good story.

  • http://www.maryannag.blogspot.com Mary Anna

    I’m in tears reading this. My son is 3, and he’ll often ask me questions about the people holding signs on the sides of the road. Sometimes, I stare straight forward and pretend they’re not there – we all do it. Sometimes, though, I see that desparation in their eyes (and I’m glad it’s not in mine), and I roll down the window and hand them whatever cash I have.

    The other day, there was this gentleman hobbling in traffic. Our eyes met when he was in the lane next to mine. I waved him over and gave him a $20 – all I had. He actually began to cry, and so did I. As we drove away, my son asked if he was sad. I told him no, he was probably happier than he had been in a long time and that I was sad that he was out there. Then my son asked if the man would go into the grocery store we had just left to buy food. I told him that maybe he would or maybe he would take it home and give it to his family so they could have food. For the rest of the afternoon, we talked about this brief exchange, and I have a glimmer of hope that my son will have a full heart in this cynical world.

  • http://www.heyyahosers.blogspot.com Eve Grey

    This story means so much to me and it made me cry. Which is perhaps not saying a whole lot as i’m pre-menstrual and also cried to Beyonce’s “If i were a boy” tonight. But i digress. I am so relieved you posted this because there was a very small part of me that was afraid you were asking because you weren’t sure what you’d do.
    These gestures, however small, can make a serious difference in people’s lives. Did this guy go clean himself up and turn his life around? Probably not. But he also knew that not every human being is an asshole. (Unlike the troll who followed my comment from your post and left a gross comment on my post).
    You have made a difference to so so many with this post. I know it.

  • http://bluescityref.wordpress.com bluescityref

    I’m pretty sure I know the mall and the “rose man” as I always referred to him you’re talking about. He was out there all the time, rain, snow (not that we ever got much of that), or whatever. I never figured out what his story was either. I always took it as that he was just on hard times.

    There are still rose men around the city. You see them in the clubs downtown getting men to buy a rose for the lady that is out with them. I think those guys make some pretty good money at it though. They never look as bad as that guy that used to stand in the mall traffic.

    Here’s a link for another mall you probably went to growing up
    http://www.memphisdailynews.com/editorial/Article.aspx?id=38746

  • LP

    Wonderful story, Dooce. I think too many people get hung up on what might happen to the money that they give and fail to realize that part of the beauty of giving is what it does for the giver. Of course it’s important to meet needs where you are able to do so by the act of giving, but also in giving we are reminded that it really isn’t about us. And I need that reminder more frequently than I’d like to admit.

  • Anonymous

    This is exactly what I was thinking the other day. I was stopped on my way in to work by a man who wanted bus fare to the VA hospital. I said no and continued walking (toward the large academic medical center I work in). I stopped, got out some cash and turned around and followed the man back a block to catch up to him. I handed him more than enough bus fare. I have no idea what he did with the money, but the chance that he was a vet who had just been turned away by the prestigious hospital that employs me sickened me. If my few dollars could get him to the VA hospital that would help him I’d be a horrible person not to help him. If he took my money and bought booze, oh well. The alternative of being so hard of heart that I could pass him by and contribute to his not getting health care he needed was worth the risk.

  • Ashley

    I have tears in my eyes. Thank you for sharing that story. I so needed to hear that today. Your brother sounds like an amazing person. It’s funny that you say you were taught to ignore those people…your parents must have done something right along the way.

    And don’t you love how cynical people are, assuming your story was about trying to trap them or making a political statement and instead it was just a touching story about charity.

  • http://www.lolatini.com Laura

    Have you read the book Anatomy of Peace? I just read it in the last year, and the whole premise is based on honoring your impulses. If you have the impulse to give some scruffy guy a $20 and you honor it, you’ll be at peace. Sometimes you just don’t need to have a reason other than “I wanted to.”

  • http://pogonipnv.blogspot.com pogonip

    We never know when our simple acts might become an example for someone else, do we? I’d like to think your brother’s long-ago kindness might be like a ripple in a pond. With the economy in freefall now, some of us might be very happy to be on the receiving end of a twenty dollar bill.

  • Anonymous

    September is a pretty name. Whats the story behind it? Was she conceived or born in September?

  • Katie B.

    Heather,
    I have never left a comment, but I am a loyal reader. I am quite a bit more conservative than you are but I respect you opinions a great deal, whether we agree or not. Even more so more on the issues we do not agree on because you always make me think of a different approach from the one I would normally take. I thoroughly enjoyed the question you posed and I admit, at first I thought it was a political question but I was hoping that was not the end of it. I am so thankful that you came back to it. I live about 5 miles outside of Washington DC and see homeless people on almost a daily basis. I am ashamed to admit that sometimes I question what they will use the money for…but other times I don’t question it at all and give freely. I don’t know what makes me question some but not all…I guess, it is just nice knowing that someone else thinks about these things too. Political views aside, I just want to do the right thing and make someone else’s life a little easier.
    Thanks,
    Katie
    PS. I really enjoy your blog, thank you!

  • Cathy

    What a great story. My husband and I have always tried to teach our daughters by example. So when ever we encoutered the less fortunate John would always give money to the person before he/she would ask. When our eldest was in her freshman year at college, she and a group of friends were walking around downtown Boston. She came across a man who asked her for money. She took her wallet out and gave him several dollar bills. He then attempted to grab her wallet but she was able to get her wallet and she ran off. I asked her what she had learned and she said,” from now on I will keep some loose bills in my pocket so I won’t need to take my wallet out”. I was truly proud of her.

    PS- I love your blog. Keep up the great work!

  • europa

    I knew I liked you for a reason. The way you put yourself out there is amazing. Thank you for sharing your personal thoughts on your question. A beautiful reason to be so generous and giving to those who have less. I am certain that in writing this, you have changed the perspective for some and more people will be less hungry tonight because of your post. You’re awesome.

  • http://lavaboinaquam.blogspot.com DJ

    I agree with you 100%. I have this argument with a friend all the time. I always say it’s better to err on the side of charity. If this person is scamming you, then that’s on their conscience, not yours. Trying to help someone is never wrong.

  • amy

    Heather, that was beautifully written. Thank you.

  • Rashel

    I’d vote for a Ranger/Heather ticket.

  • Lisa D

    When i started reading this story… i was thinking “oh no… her brother started using drugs in college or something” i was very happy when i read the rest of the story!

  • http://theseatedview.blogspot.com/ Lene

    Several years ago, I walked by a homeless man panhandling. He asked for money, said he was $3 short of a cheap bottle. I gave him the money. For his honesty.

    The way I see it, it’s none of my business what they do with the money – who am I to judge what is a “legitimate” need and what isn’t? I don’t always give, because I don’t have a lot of money myself, but when I can, I leave my building with $5 or sometimes $10 and give it to the first person I meet who’s asking for it. No judgement. Some people tithe in church. I am not religious, but tithe in my neighbourhood.