Living in Northern California , I witness poverty and homelessness on a daily basis. There is not a stop light or freeway exit that I stop at where I don't see somebody holding up a sign asking for a handout. Even though it's a daily occurance, I will NEVER get used to seeing people sleeping on the sidewalks begging on the street corners.
There are many reasons that people end up on the streets and I'm not here to judge anyone. One thing I do know is that man or woman looking for a handout is somebody's child. When I look at it in those terms, it's pretty hard to turn a blind eye to them because if my child was in need I would want somebody to help them. That being said how is one to determine who truly needs help or who is going to use that money for drugs or alcohol? Since I work hard for my money and refuse to let it go to waste, I took money out of the equation and decided to use my time, smile and some food.
I keep bottled water in my car at all times. Panhanding can take a lot out of you on the streets and a nice drink of water is always a welcomed gesture. Not only can it be used to refresh somebody, but it can also be used to wash up or even brush your teeth. I also collect soaps, shampoos, conditioners and lotions from hotels to hand out as well. You would be suprised how appreciative people are when I hand them out in little bags with stickers or notes tucked inside. Most importantly I look people in their eyes and call them brother or sister when I give them something. It makes me feel that we are actually connected, and when I see my sister or brother in need I should be there to help feel that need. It may not be a lot, but these small gestures can be a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. So the next time you come in contact with a homeless person or a panhandler on the streets, remember they are somebody's child and to treat them with the love and kindness that you want your child to be treated with.