Why I choose to give to those on the street

Every day that I drive through downtown Everett I see a homeless person sitting on the corner holding up a sign asking for help, and it’s unsettling to me.

I hate the fact that I live in the wealthiest developed nation and we have homeless people. This should not be! No matter what circumstances put them in that situation, whether it was the cause of personal choices, mental issues or failed attempts in our Western society, we can do better for them and for our streets.

As I was driving through Everett recently, I decided that today was my day to give to them (as I am not always able to give); so, after dropping my daughter off at day care I drove back to the grocery store they were next to, walked into the Starbucks there, ordered two coffees and two sandwiches, and brought them to the two homeless people sitting on the corner. As I approached them they looked up at me and we returned smiles. I greeted them and expressed to them that I saw them there and thought they could use some coffee and sandwiches. The pair thanked me as they expressed they were trying to stay warm. I told them to have a blessed day, and they said the same to me. I wanted to know their stories, but I could feel myself losing my composure, and I did not want to cry in front of them; therefore, I continued the walk to my car.

As I began to get into my car, a man driving by stopped and said to me that I shouldn’t have given to people like that; he went on to say that they are scammers. He said that the lady in the wheel chair didn’t actually need the wheel chair because he saw her just last week running across the streets of Everett. I thanked him for his concern, but I also pointed out that maybe those two are out there because they have mental issues. He still insisted they were scammers and drove away.

What I have to say about all this is maybe the lady didn’t need the chair, and maybe those two were scammers, but does it really matter? Maybe she was just using the chair for a comfortable place to sit down. Maybe the two of them were out there due to their own misgivings. Maybe they really weren’t homeless and were just scam artists, but nobody really knows for sure. The thing is, they are out there for a reason, with which no functioning person in our society would subject themselves to such a situation. If they are being dishonest, then they have themselves to answer to, and God (if they are believers). Who are we to judge what we do not know? Is it so wrong to deliver a random act of kindness to a stranger here and there? After all, each party involved receives something good out of the act. The person giving can feel good about helping someone claiming to be less fortunate, and the person(s) on the receiving end can see some good in the world through your generosity. It’s a win-win.

So the next time you see a homeless person and you have the means to help, please don’t judge them for what you do not know; instead, stop and give once in a while, and you’ll both be gifted with a smile.

Teri McAllister lives in Lake Stevens.

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