Last Sunday I spent $5 for a $2.50 newspaper that I didn’t even take with me because I already had a copy of the paper sitting in my driveway at home. Let me explain.
The only thing that irritates me more than the bums with the falsely labeled “Will Work for Food” signs on street corners begging for booze money are the people enabling and encouraging such behavior by falling for the scam and coughing up a few bucks; not because they think it will help the bum, mind you, but because it helps assuage their own conscience.
I get the emotional appeal. But, folks, this is a situation calling for tough love. You don’t change bad, self-defeating behavior by subsidizing it. I mean, it’s like paying welfare mothers extra money to have additional children. That only makes a bad situation worse.
Anyway, last Sunday I got up early with my 6-year-old son and went to Wal-Mart to pick up a birthday present for his friend’s party. On the way out of the store I walked past a young boy, probably around 12 years old, selling copies of the day’s Sunday paper.
As noted, I already subscribe to the paper and knew it was waiting for me at home, so I explained that to the young man and kept on walking. Then I stopped cold.
Here was a young kid out hustling on his own to earn a few bucks on a Sunday morning. And this is exactly the kind of behavior we should be encouraging. So I turned around, walked back to the boy, pulled a $5 bill out of my pocket, handed it to the boy and told him I didn’t want the paper but wanted to reward him for his initiative and working for a living.
Felt darned good to do good for a good kid.
Folks, if your conscience could use a real boost by helping someone where your money will actually encourage positive behavior rather than negative, I can’t recommend something like this highly enough. And as the weather warms up, here’s another opportunity to look for.
Kids often try to raise money by holding a neighborhood car wash. You’ve all seen them holding signs on various street corners.
Well, if you’re like me you probably just don’t have time to stop and wait for your car to be washed by hand. But from now on, when the spirit moves you, consider quickly stopping at the car wash, hand the kids a couple of bucks and tell ’em to just keep it. Trust me, you’ll feel at least as good as giving the money to the street bums, but you’ll be rewarding entrepreneurship rather than dependence.
Chuck Muth is president of citizenoutreach.com and blogs at muthstruths.com