DEAR HARRIETTE: I live in a neighborhood that has a whole range of people. I see businessmen in suits, young men who hang out on the street, old people pushing walkers and more and more homeless people. I like that there is a variety of people. I feel good about not being in a homogeneous environment, but I am conflicted over what to do when people ask me for money every day. I am barely getting by myself. I do give to my church every month, but I don’t have the money to give to homeless people who ask for it -- yet I feel bad ignoring them. I don’t want to be one of those gentrified-type people who ignore people who have less than I do. What else can I do? I cannot afford to give them money. -- Showing Compassion, Brooklyn, New York
DEAR SHOWING COMPASSION: You do not have to give money to everyone who asks, nor do you need to feel guilty about that. What you can do is to see the humanity in people. Instead of quickly pushing past people when they get too close, look unkempt or are begging for money, smile at the person, say “Have a good day,” or some other nicety. When asked for money, respond and say, “I’m sorry. Good day,” or “God bless you.” Acknowledge the person in front of you and keep moving. Know that a few of these people may say negative things to you, but my experience is that more will express gratitude for being seen.
On the occasion when you do have a few cents to give away or a garment to keep someone warm, offer it.