Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Reader Feels Bad Not Giving Money to Homeless

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.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been working with the same attorney for many years. He’s kind of an all-around type of attorney. I have a different need now that my husband and I are considering divorce. We need an expert to help walk us through options, and so far we haven’t made any headway. Our breakup is sad but not acrimonious. It’s time to move on, and we agree on that. We do have some assets, including our home and retirement funds, etc. I think I need an expert lawyer to help me handle this. How do I tell my attorney? I don’t want to hurt his feelings. Using someone else almost feels like being involved in two divorces at once. -- Making Choices, Miami

DEAR MAKING CHOICES: Consider your attorney an asset right now. Tell him what’s going on and ask him for a referral. You need an expert divorce attorney. If he is a generalist, he knows already that this is not his area of expertise. If he offers to handle your case for you, tell him that you want and need an expert on divorce law. You need someone skilled at navigating division of resources, and you hope that he can make a few recommendations. If he doesn’t take this well, that’s on him. As a professional, he will likely be sensitive to your circumstances and introduce you to the most appropriate attorneys he knows.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)