I will give money to panhandlers.
I have no issue with people who are down on their luck and need a few bucks to survive. I don’t even begrudge the ones who do it as a way to earn a living, because it beats working any day.
And unlike most people, I don’t boycott panhandlers because they will just spend it on booze, anyway. It’s not because I believe that they’re actually trying to put together bus fare or they need a quarter for the phone, but because I spend my pay cheques on booze and therefore am not one to be casting stones.
But I wish that panhandlers weren’t so damn lazy.
I don’t mean that I wish they would straighten up and fly right, get a tie and a briefcase and steal their living from the hands of fate like the rest of us. The way they make their living isn’t distasteful to me, but their apathy is.
I realize the common denominator among panhandlers — at least from a popular standpoint — is that they are too lazy or inept to hold down a real job, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t put in a little effort.
Really, what is their job? They ask other people to give them their hard-earned cash and they don’t offer any services for it. They aren’t selling anything. They don’t have advice to give. They don’t even have to be nice about it.
They have the easiest task in the world and the least they could do is show a little initiative.
Is it too much to expect a little song and dance? In the Great Depression, if a man wanted you to give him money he would play the harmonica, whitewash a fence or maybe spin you a hobo yarn. But we have lost that, and as a result our lovable derelicts are a dying breed.
Sailor Dan, a Saskatoon institution who wears a sailor’s cap, draws ship after ship and provides a cultural gathering point.
There is a young panhandler in my neighbourhood who speaks with an Irish brogue and has a gleaming vocabulary whom I almost never refuse my spare coins to, despite the fact that he has better headphones, clothing and — judging by how many times I see him at Starbucks every week — eating habits than I do.
There is a tone-deaf, middle aged man who plays improvised ditties on an irreparably out of tune guitar at passers-by on Broadway. At least he tries.
I don’t resent any of them for whatever cash they can scrape together from their toil, but I do resent the hordes of shiftless bums who curse at me after I walk past without surrendering my coin purse.