Sometimes I shock myself at how arbitrarily I decide whether to give to a beggar on the street. Of course I can’t say yes to everyone -- or even a tenth of those who ask. I have one rule, that I don’t open my billfold; I don’t give if I don’t have change in my pocket. But other than that, my decisions are made entirely on the impulse of the moment. I have the power to give, and I exercise it.
But now St. Louis has initiated a campaign to say no to beggars and give instead to registered charities. Lord knows it is easy enough to say no without being instructed by the city to turn our backs on the poor.
Surely anybody who asks for money needs it -- maybe for a drink, yes, but maybe for a sandwich or a blanket. Beggars are needy. That’s why they’re asking. Nobody would stand on a corner asking for money if they didn’t need it.