New Englishman in New York Part 2: Charity Starts at Home

Tom has just over a month to understand New York and get a visa. Give a beggar money and he'll keep begging. Don't and he'll go hungry. What to do? One thing's certain, don't split your beer with him.
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Tom has just over a month to understand New York and get a visa. Give a beggar money and he'll keep begging. Don't and he'll go hungry. What to do? One thing's certain, don't split your beer with him.

Sat outside of a bar. It's hot. We are having drinks before meeting my girlfriends friend and fiancé for Japanese food. I've looked at the menu and seen a beer 2 dollars cheaper than the rest. Plump for it and it's backfired. Just a dodgy can of Mexican lager with a lime on top of the can. So we’re sat there, I’m in a mood.

I shouldn’t be, the Empire State Building is in view. When yer tilt yer head that is. But it is a nice setting. Some fella pulls up on his bike. One with suspension. The ones for mountains, not for the city, he goes:

“Hey guys. Can I have some change?”

He's a beggar on a bike. Never quite known what to do with beggars. Don't give them money and then they won't beg anymore and then something positive will happen. Weak assumption. Give them money and then they continue begging forever. The self feeding beast. But then these people are hungry. Tired. Desperate. So like most people sometimes I give. Sometimes I don’t. I then justify my actions to myself afterwards.

I was hoping my girlfriend would save the situation, I can keep quiet, she can make the call. He looks at me though...

I go for... “Sorry mate.” Proves I understand the plight but I’m not gonna give him anything. He goes a step lower, eyeing my 4 dollar can. “How about a sip of soda?”

He's got a big homeless beard. I've never been keen sharing drinking vessels since I was a kid. Backwash was a fear close to death. Even with my brother, who would reason “We are made of the same stuff” I still didn’t like sharing.“Sorry mate.”

It annoys me though. Why would I share a can of beer with a homeless stranger? He then somehow manages to make me feel bad.

"Never quite known what to do with beggars. Don't give them money and then they won't beg anymore. Weak assumption. Give them money and they beg forever. The self feeding beast."

He goes:

“Oh... Yuck.”

Gets on his bike and mutters:

“Not nice people.”

This plays on my mind for the rest of the evening. Thinking of what I should have said instead. A few hours on I've plumped for :

“Sell your bike then you twat.” Maybe I'm not a nice person.

Charity Guy 2

I've taken a walk to Ground Zero, having dropped my girlfriend off at work. This “Mosque” controversy is going on and since it's kinda my neighborhood I thought I would have a look. Ground Zero is massive and I couldn't see the alleged place anywhere. I did see two Burger Kings though. Another thing I saw was a charity person. Yer know like the guy before, clip board, wants yer cash. Stood in the middle of the street trying to get some attention.

So the guy has clocked me, I'm walking head down and speeding up trying to give him a wide berth. He begins to speak:

"Hello sir"

I look up and begin my tried and tested head shake with polite smile, followed by a warm "No Thankyou" when he says:

"Do you support gay rights?"

I was so thrown that I could not stop my pre planned formula. My body was in control. My head was already shaking and I said "No" and kept walking.

His head dropped. Smile finished. I'd just piled more misery on a man just trying to make the world a better place.

I couldn’t have gone back to clarify. Too odd. What could I have said?

I spent the next 10 blocks just thinking and worrying that he thinks I'm a homophobe. If I had responded "Yes but not financially" it might not have looked so good anyway. I could have gone with "Yes but I do my bit for gays privately" but again, mixed messages. Either way it wasn't the successful interacting I had with the man in Times Square. It is still upsetting me. He looked so sad.