Recognizing the person behind the outstretched hand

By Lindsay Advocate

I appreciated Nancy Payne’s article on panhandling and felt that it was thoughtful and fair.

But one point worth adding is that it’s helpful to imagine things from the point of view of the panhandler.

When one is dependent on others for basic needs like food, clothing and shelter what’s missing is the basic dignity of having choice.

As a society we tend to be very patronizing of people with addictions (even though we all have them, some being more acceptable than others), and don’t remember how humiliating it can be to have little control over anything.

Those parking lot loonies may be spent on substance abuse, or coffee, or deep fried junk food, but the person who begged for them at least gets to feel like an adult with agency, for better or worse.

I’d rather spare some loose change than say “I give to charity.”

I’d like the person begging to know I recognize their personhood as opposed to putting them in a category labelled “charity case.”

And “no” is also a perfectly good answer.

Elaine Jackson, Mount Albert

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