DEAR ABBY: I spent the afternoon running errands. As I left the shopping center, I saw a young couple with a baby and a toddler holding a sign requesting help with food, as the husband had just been laid off. I drove past, then considered the children and circled back.
I had no cash with me, so I stopped and offered them our family's dinner -- a jar of premium spaghetti sauce, a pound of fresh ground beef, a box of dried spaghetti, fruit cups that my children usually take to school for treats, and some canned soups I occasionally have for lunch.
Imagine my surprise when the couple declined my generosity. Instead, the man strongly suggested that I should go to a nearby ATM and withdraw cash to donate to them because they preferred to select their own groceries and pay their phone bills. What are your thoughts on this? -- GENUINELY PUZZLED IN AUSTIN, TEXAS
DEAR PUZZLED: What happened is a shame. Some families are truly in need and should be guided to a shelter so they can receive help getting back on their feet. However, in some cities you see the same people on the same streets for long periods of time. They have staked out their "turf," and because the money they are given is tax-free, some of them are doing quite well. In your case, the couple you saw holding the sign may have been professional panhandlers, and the children may have been "borrowed."