By Chrissy Bernal
We have a busy intersection here that often has people who stand on the corners with signs. We’ve seen some funny signs like, “My family was kidnapped by Penguin Ninjas; need money for Ninja classes.” However, most of the time, we see signs indicating that the person wants to work for food or would just like a donation.
My kids often ask me why those people are there and why we would or wouldn’t give them money. I’ve explained to my kids that some of the people standing there legitimately need help and some are trying to take advantage of peoples’ giving spirits. “Why do the people need help and why wouldn’t they just get a job?” kids often ask.
In our household, my kids know that we hold the belief that if you should always give your 100%. We teach them that no one owes you anything, that you should do your part to contribute to society and work for what you have. We teach them that unfortunately sometimes a person’s part might be very small because they mentally or physically cannot fend for themselves or properly care for themselves. That’s when you are to step in to help them however you can. We also teach them that sometimes situations happen when you would need a bit of help—and that’s okay, but you should try and bounce back as soon as you can so that resources will be there to help the next person who needs help.
We donate to legitimate charities. Very rarely do I give the people on the corner money since it’s hard to trust whether or not they legitimately need help—despite my initial internal response to want to immediately fix everything for them. I do remember a time many years ago, though, when I came across a pregnant woman walking along the street and appeared to be homeless.
I didn’t have any cash on me at the time and really didn’t have a lot of extra money, but I had just come back from a luncheon and had leftovers. I asked her if she wanted them and she gratefully accepted the food and immediately gobbled it up. I asked her if she needed any more help and she said she would be okay. I look back at that moment often and wished I would have been able to do more.
I was talking to another woman about situations similar to this and I brought up this story and how I wished I would have been able to help more. She offered a great suggestion! It’s what she has been doing with her family.
She and her kids get together and go shopping for toothbrushes, inexpensive soaps, toothpastes, shampoos and deodorants. They also grab water and foods such as canned fruits, tunas and other non-perishables that would be easy to eat. Then they put one of each into a large Ziploc bag and keep the bags handy in the back of their car.
Whenever they run across someone standing on the corner asking for money, they offer them a bag of the necessities. If the person legitimately needs assistance, they’ll be glad to accept the bag. If not, then….
Do you have a creative way that you and your kids like to help?