Have A Drink On Me

by Stephanie

Homeless people stress me out.

Like, for real.
At this point you either think I’m insensitive or crazy. I’ve made my peace with that, but let me explain. I live in NYC. Homeless people are everywhere and they have no problems asking for money. Some stick with the basics: a sign asking for money for food or a simple “can you spare some change, ma’am?” Others are a little more creative like the guy who sells batteries and candy bars on the subway. And then there are the overly-argumentative folks on the subway who give long-winded speeches filled with guilt and anger designed to make you feel so bad about yourself if you DON’T give them a dollar.
But that’s not what stresses me out. What stresses me out is that I really would like to be able to help them. But I can barely feed myself in this crazy city let alone feed the throngs of people who live on the streets. And there’s the deciding factor of who to help, how to help, etc. I have a little argument with myself every time someone asks me for money. It goes a little something like this:
Homeless man: Ma’am, can you spare some change?
Me (thinking to myself):Wow, I wish I could help this guy. You know, I probably can spare SOME change, but isn’t it kind of patronizing to give someone a few pennies. If I give him anything it should at least be a dollar, but how do I know they’re not gonna spend the money on getting drunk? But wait, is it so bad if he uses my dollar for a beer? I mean I’d probably buy a beer too if I lived on the streets. Oh, I have an idea, I should go buy him some food. But I just used a credit card to buy myself a sandwich. Probably shouldn’t spend money I don’t have. But wait a sec. Why should that guy just get money for asking for it? I go to work every day to earn a dollar. He should too. Oh, who am I kidding. That guy didn’t even have any shoes on. How could he get a job?I got it! I should go buy him some shoes!
And by the time I reach some sort of conclusion, I’ve already walked about three blocks past the guy and missed my opportunity. And then I feel bad. Until the next time, when the argument starts all over again.
Sometimes it’s exhausting to be me.