Alms for the Poor

Every morning I grab a fistful of coins from my ceramic bowl filled with spare change. I put these coins in my back pocket and carry them on my person for the sake of the local beggars.

Downtown Philadelphia is a city where you can hardly walk three or four blocks without one panhandler or another asking politely, pleading, or even demanding you hand over some silver. This incessant begging wears on you after awhile. It's obvious and pitiable how these people have fallen—or even leaped wholeheartedly—onto hard times. Lord knows I know how that can be.

Perhaps if there were only a few of them it wouldn't be such a big deal. The situation would certainly be easier to ignore. But they add up. There are only so many practiced sad puppy dog eyes and convoluted hard luck stories about needing $11.35 for bus fare a person can take in a single evening's walk before said person becomes a bit cynical. All the more so when you've heard the same exact tale of woe from three different people on the very same street, each storyteller more ravaged by alcohol and drug abuse than the last.

Frustrating as that all may be, the fact remains these are people in desperate and dire situations. And I do have spare change. I have an entire bowl full of spare change. So what I do is I grab a fistful of coins every morning. Whenever anyone asks me for change, I give them some. No questions asked. No lectures. No judgement. No pity. No resentment. Just some coins.

Does this make me a good person? I don't think so. It just makes me a person who recognizes that right now he does in fact have some spare change.