do we ever really know what time it is?

Emily asked me to share my thoughts about giving money to homeless (or otherwise impoverished) folks when there is a fairly good assumption that it would be going to feed someone's addiction.

Right off, I'd say that if that was the motivating force that kept you (Em, not YOU, bur rather the collective you that is in all of us) from offering spare change, then I'd ask you if you buy gasoline. Because I can't think of a larger collective addiction. And then I might question how else you spend your money. Do you buy clothes that were manufactured in third world countries, whether it Nike or Walmart or even the bananas we import, because you can bet that is off the back of someone else and most certainly feeding corporate addictions to money. Do you truly live sustainably, or do your purchases simply feed addictions out of the range of vision?

Addiction, see, it's a funnybugger. The highbrow kind, cloaked in marketing and media, telling us what we need to feel good, to get a good deal, feeds our collective addiction of production and consumption. Of greed. Money is the drug of choice for many. It might look like a hot guy in a suit, but it's still an addiction.

So it's a little hypocritical to get all flummoxed over that .50 that someone is asking for on the streets.

Now for the moral side of the coin. If you know that your actions will directly contribute to someone else's pain, and I count addiction in this, then it is awfully hard to turn a blind eye and help that person closer to the brink. Sadly I think our uninformed consumption does this all the time (diamonds are popular, yet often farmed in horrific conditions) but I think that offering someone money so they can go buy an eightball does this too.

How do we know that the guy asking for spare change is going to buy drugs? One way is if he told you when you asked why he wanted your money. And if he was to be honest, you could have an honest reaction. Chances are, though, there will be a lie or two involved. A lot has happened to that guy between the time he more closely resembled you and the time it's taken to make it to the streets.

Shame. That's a whopper. Imagine slowly losing everything, whether to addiction or poverty or to a couple of bad turns. Chances are by the time I found myself on the curb I'd have fallen pretty far down the rabbit hole. I'd have a lot of regrets. And I've had a lot of opportunity to be treated like shit. So I am going to want to make it sound as plausible as possible. Money for the bus (that means I am leaving your town soon and that's a good thing for everyone) food (who can argue with an empty belly); or clothes for that job interview (god knows you think I need a job).

I've worked with A LOT of people who've probably asked other people for money. They don't ask me - I think it falls under the premise that you don't shit where you eat. But I've certainly seen a scam or two (or twenty) selling prescription meds for a dollar a pill, making sweet with the older lady to get their hands on her disability check. And probably telling you they need money for the bus so they can go out and get high.

And even with all that, I still give money regularly. I don't walk around with a wad of cash and act like a wannabe Hefner at a strip club, but if I have a couple bucks and someone asks I give it to them. I don't ask what they need it for. Some folks want to tell me, but it isn't my business; I am doing it because they asked, and in the hopes they can take care of themselves. And I have the lucky bonus of extending a bit more - a night in a shelter - a place to go if they want it.

Back in my green years I would pass out my card all the time. I'd even set up a time to meet. I was sure they'd show up. In reality perhaps 1 in 5 actually did. But those one in five meant it. The others, perhaps it was a lie to get some cash. How different is that from the corporate deceit of inflated profit margins and promises of rebates? Free trade and fair wages? Of lower emissions and Made in the USA when only the label gets sewn on here?

Charity is also known as Almsgiving, and wiki defines that as the act of giving money, goods or time to the unfortunate, either directly or by means of a charitable trust or other worthy cause, is described as charity or charitable giving. The poor, particularly widows and orphans, and the sick and disabled, are generally regarded as the proper objects of almsgiving.

I tend to think of charity as a conscious practice within myself. The moment I decide to give money, I give up the right to my attachment to it. If I give to organizations, I do some research. I want to know how much is going to overhead, who their funders are, perhaps who sits on their boards. I want to know the mission. I can learn that and make a donation. If they use my money to pay their phone bill, so be it. I gave to the cause.

If you give to a person, less research is possible. So I give because someone in trouble is asking. I can't be that attached to what they do with it once I do, because see, it's a gift. I am offering a gift, perhaps under persuasion, but I am still offering it nonetheless.

So, Em. This is a long way for me to say that I think we spend our money in other ways that should give us greater concern. That we'd have to really work hard to ensure no one is doing something you don't want them to do with your money. The government went to war (to feed our addiction) with my taxes the last three years, and beyond voting the bastards out of office there is little I can do.

At least when you give to the guy on the street, it's quite possible you are actually helping someone. The unknown quantity is probably better odds towards the side of good than most of our spending. Besides, it's a nice thing to do. Your humanness will matter. Almsgiving is a virtue.

I welcome your thoughts. And for what it's worth, I don't own a single diamond.

But hell if I didn't fill my tank up yesterday.