October 21, 2011

You need some skepticism to go with that empathy.

"Madison's con artists"... and the students who respond to them.
One student, who asked to remain anonymous, said "Misty Gaines" approached her on Library Mall saying she was depressed, three months pregnant and in an abusive relationship.

The student, a sophomore, said she fell for the story and ultimately, "under pressure," gave Gaines $100 for a hotel, believing Gaines when she said all the Madison shelters were full.
$100! Was that her parents' hard-earned money she handed over?

106 comments:

ironrailsironweights said...

No doubt Misty uses that sob story on a regular basis.

Peter

AllenS said...

I know that the commenters on this blog are good and caring people, so could I have $20 for some beer?

Chase said...

Not surprising. Cons will find any public situation to take advantage of.

I was approached at a gas station by a young (early 30ish black man) asking for help just to get to their aunt's home about 2 hours away because they ran out of gas and they were from another state and they did not know anyone.
Gave him the $5 I had in cash. Not much.

Strangest thing (I have witnesses): the same guy pulled the same act on me at a gas station just outside of Bakersfield about 4 months later. He had a different car and a different "wife". When I told him he had done this to me before he said "God bless you man" and walked immediately over to another stranger to con them.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

Out here in California they just busted four people for soliciting contributions for a (nonexistent) baby's funeral. Story here. I blame poor upbringing.

Jason said...

When I was in school, I was approached about a dozen times over four years by the same woman with the same sob story. "My name is Linda McDaniels, and I just got beaten and raped, and I need 5 dollars to catch a bus."

This was at the shopping mall right across the street from campus.

She remembered me after that. A couple of times she approached a group of my friends and started her story, then recognized me, apologized, and slinked away.

I guess she got enough gullible freshmen every day to keep the scam going, but everyone who'd been at the school longer than a couple of years knew about her.

WV: nesse. "But doctor, is it really nesse..."

"It IS nesse! You don't tell ME what's nesse! I tell YOU what's nesse!!!"

Finally I told her I was going to beat the crap out of her myself if I saw her plying that scam again.

Kit said...

Before I got halfway through...what DeSpain said at the end. Even if it ends up being a true story - best to get them to an expert.

David said...

It's hitting the occupiers too. In the 60's, the communes and ashrams became a magnet for all kinds of exploiters, who feasted on the dreamy youth and then moved on. It got pretty ugly, and the occupy groups are seeing this.

And of course it was Mom and Dad's money.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

In downtown Chattanooga, there was a woman for a while who would go up to other women and claim that she had just suddenly started her period had no where to go, could you please give her some cash so that she could duck into a drug store for some tampons?

Not as profitable for each hit, but, this being something that I think every woman fears, I suspect that she was successful more often than not.

- Lyssa

Sixty Grit said...

I was resting in a car while a friend was in a store. A black man approached me, said he was a minister, and needed money. I told him he was a lousy preacher if he couldn't convince his flock to give him money and that if he didn't get away from me I was going to shoot him. He left.

Scammers have no shame.

Earth Girl said...

For the student who gave her $100 (and I would rather believe it was tip money she earned), this may be the most valuable and least expensive lesson learned this semester. If my sons are blowing my money, I would rather it be for this lesson than for a beer blow-out or video games.

Johanna Lapp said...

I lived for eight years just three blocks from NYC's Port Authority bus terminal. The first week I lived there, a skinny punkster on Eighth Avenue tried to panhandle "just three more dollars" to complete his $12 bus ticket back home to Philadelphia.

More than 30 times over the next eight years, the same guy hit me up. He got fatter and the number of tattoos and piercings grew. For one brief interlude, he had a pregnant girlfriend as a prop. Once I saw him hauling a shopping cart of Big Apple Market groceries into a Ninth Avenue tenement, and I'd see him going in and out of the same building for years thereafter. But for that same span of years, he was always just three bucks shy of his bus fare home. (To be fair, the Greyhound has inched up to $20 over the years.)

Paying panhandlers is a fool's game.

madAsHell said...

Either way, I think you have to look at it as....to-wishin' money.

Levi Starks said...

She's lucky to have learned such a valuable lesson so early in her academic career. I'd say this story proves that there really is value in a college education.

Shouting Thomas said...

Obama's running just about the same con, isn't he?

Rich kid from private high school in Honolulu playing the poor black kid scam.

Sixty Grit said...

Yeah, except he is using the threat of violence against us.

Spread Eagle said...

Was that her parents' hard-earned money she handed over?

What's known as a wealth redistribution scheme. It's a rite of passage to adulthood.

Like David @9:06 pointed out, the hippie hippie shake era had its share of grifters expoiting the youth too. Live and learn.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

She's lucky to have learned such a valuable lesson so early in her academic career.

You are making the assumption that she is actually capable of learning something.

In the 60's, the communes and ashrams became a magnet for all kinds of exploiters, who feasted on the dreamy youth and then moved on.

deja vu: Helter Skelter

Been there done that and still have the tie dyed tee shirt. Well.... not "exactly" Helter Skelter, but have experienced the cons and morons who fall for them.

Some people never learn.

Ann said...

I just experienced a similar scam. My elderly parents died a week apart, and my siblings and I were starting to clear out their duplex in a retirement community in a town where none of us lived.

A young woman barged her way in and started crying like a banshee, claiming that my father had hired her to clean the place that day and she hadn't heard they had died.

I hate to admit it, but I fell for it and gave her $40.

Chip S. said...

OWS gal has over $5K in electronic gear stolen by a freelance redistributionist. College student rents a $100-a-night hotel room for a total stranger.... Please explain to me one more time about the big student loan crisis?

YoungHegelian said...

I was in Atlanta a few years back doing some contract work for Dept of Labor. In the course of the work we'd make frequent forays between the hotel and the DoL offices.

During each foray, we'd get besieged by panhandlers whose schtick was to stop you and give you this long winded sob story, I guess to both create a "relationship" & wear the mark down.

One evening, I was in a big hurry to get back to the offices from the hotel, and was walking like I was on a mission from God. The panhandler starts off with his normal

"Hey buddy, can you help me out here? I'm in trouble and..."

"Sorry, friend, I'm in a big hurry and I gotta get moving. Can't talk now."

"Well...DAMN!, Honkey!"

When I told the concierge about the incident later that night, he covered his face with his hands and shook his head. I thought it was hilarious.

Tyrone Slothrop said...

I learned my lesson when I was fifteen. A scruffy looking guy hit up my friend and me for spare change on the Santa Monica Pier. We didn't have any "spare" change. A couple of hours later we were eating a bowl of clam chowder when this sleazebag comes in and starts unloading great handfuls of change at the cash register to change them for bills. He saw us and gave us a really dirty look, as if to accuse us of lying about our spare change! I have never given a panhandler a dime since.

Amy said...

I've heard that panhandling/scamming can be a good source of income. Based on the examples in this thread, I'd agree.
But for a more creative scam, here's what happened in our semi-rural neighborhood this week. Son of new residents (renters)was going around to houses where people were working (empty during the day) and photographing their outdoor amenities - bbq grills, bikes, mowers - and posting them for sale on CraigsList. Then he would meet the buyer outside the empty house, sell the item, pocket the cash and let them take it away. Very creative - but he was caught when a resident was home and found him negotiating with the buyers on his deck.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Please explain to me one more time about the big student loan crisis?

I don't think they understand math. Unable to figure out just what 99% versus 1% actually means.

No concept of money, finance, responsibility, time or much of anything else. Money for nothing.

Ann Althouse said...

I was taught about scams like this when I was about 12. Why are young people allowed to wander around in public in such a state of innocence.

TWM said...

There was a recent news story about a young woman who had her own apartment and all the cool stuff to go with it - iPhone, flat screen TV, car, etc - who went every day to a corner to beg for money claiming she was homeless. She would then come home and change out of her "homeless" clothes and back into her good ones. She considered it her job and it paid the bills.

The vast majority of panhandlers are scamming people, mostly just to buy booze and drugs, but also because they don't want real jobs.

I never give them money anymore, although I have purchased fast food for a few who are begging and look legitimately homeless (and you can tell). At least that way I know where my money is going.

Mary Beth said...

How was she "under pressure"?

Ann Althouse said...

I have never given a stranger money like this or even allowed anyone to begin to tell me a story like this. In fact, I think I've always known, since the age at which I was allowed to walk freely in public, that you don't let people prey on you like this, and I think, as a result, I don't even get approached. I don't look approachable.

Teach your kids that before you send them out into the world.

Ann Althouse said...

"How was she "under pressure"?"

I assume she was under pressure from her own moral values and the empathy she's been encouraged to display.

PaulV said...

The $100 she paid gave her $100 worth of education in the world of hard knocks

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The problem with the con artist panhandlers is that there are really some truly needy people out there who get lost in the shuffle.

Years ago we were having dinner in an all night restaurant at 3am. in SF China Town. (don't ask). A young guy came up and was asking for money because he was hungry.

We refused to give him money, but offered to buy him some food at the restaurant if he would sit and eat it with us. We did......and he was truly hungry.

In Calif you often see the panhandlers with dogs. This is because if you are on food stamps in Ca you also get an allotment for food stamps for your dog too. Plus tender hearted old ladies (I guess that leaves me out) feel bad for the dog.

I feel bad for the dog too, because he is with such a dirtbag owner.

Palladian said...

Funny, when I read the title and lede of this post, I thought it was going to be about lefty UW Madison professors and their gullible students.

Robert Burnham said...

Well, that $100 will give the student a better piece of education than her degree will, I bet.

Pogo said...

"Why are young people allowed to wander around in public in such a state of innocence."

The key difference, one we're no longer supposed to acknowledge even exists is the matter of the "Deserving" versus the "Undeserving" Poor."

In America in the late 1700s, towns carefully discriminated between the "worthy" and the "unworthy" for the administration of poor relief.

The worthy or deserving poor were very old, sick or severely disabled, and could not work.

Those capable of working but would not, were felt to be unworthy or undeserving of money from the state or charities.

The latter were "warned" away when entering a new town, literally run off. The idea was that each locale would 'take care of its own'.

The scam artists go to San Fran and Madison and anywhere there are sufficient dupes to believe the beggar is worthy.

Kids today don't know this because it is no longer taught.

Chip S. said...

A guy hit me up one day at lunchtime with a story about how hungry he was, yadda yadda. He had such a good line of patter that instead of my usual "get lost" glare I told him that since he was hungry I'd buy him lunch.

Imagine my surprise when he took me up on the offer! Based on the amount of biomass he put away, I'd say he really was hungry.

TCB-n-a-Flash said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
YoungHegelian said...

@Althouse,

"....or even allowed anyone to begin to tell me a story like this."

What do you do to stop people from talking to you on the street? Taser them at first sight?

"Yo, ma'am, could you help a veteran o...AAAAAIIIIIIEEEEEEEE!!!!"

TCB-n-a-Flash said...

Lovin' the name 'Misty Gaines'. I'm coming to Madison this weekend to panhandle. Think I'll call myself 'Gusty Winds'.

Sorry Ann. I don't think Misty Gaines is taking the students on any more of a scam ride than the University.

Palladian said...

I come from a small town where no one would have ever asked a stranger for money. The concept would have been completely alien. I think growing up in that environment made me permanently immune to even considering giving money to panhandlers and con-artists.

It does bring up an interesting moral question, at least for serious followers of Christianity: does Christ require you to give to those who ask, regardless of the asker's motives?

Pogo said...

"does Christ require you to give to those who ask, regardless of the asker's motives?"

No.

Paddy O will offer a more insightful answer, but 'No' is correct.

Titus said...

Misty Gaines sounds like a drag queen name.

Mary Beth said...

I won't say that I'm never approached by panhandlers/scammers but it doesn't happen often. Usually it's only when I am with my kids. Maybe they think that moms are more empathetic or won't want to look uncaring in front of their kids.

I guess I should be glad for it, my children have learned that it's okay to say no.

LarsPorsena said...

Robert Burnham said...
Well, that $100 will give the student a better piece of education than her degree will, I bet.
-------------------
Only if Mommy and Daddy refuse to replace the $100.

ndspinelli said...

There is book smart, people smart, and street smart. I chose an occupation that requires all 3 to be successful. This young woman just got taught more than any professor could teach her in a semester. So..$100 is cheap!

Roger J. said...

Presume local ordinances make panhandling illegal--suprised some of these characters havent protested the laws as a freedom of speech issue.

A fool and his/her money....

Dave said...

You give, not because they deserve it (that's justice not mercy/grace), or will spend it wisely, but because they have need. It's an undeserved gift given in recognition of the undeserved grace God gives us. If you give to a liar, it's on their souls. It's a basic religious obligation. Part of the object of charity is to distance oneself from the world and materialism by regularly practicing generosity. You benefit spiritually from giving. Easy to say, doing it consistently is very hard, but not impossible.

"You will find out that Charity is a heavy burden to carry, heavier than the kettle of soup and the full basket. But you will keep your gentleness and your smile. It is not enough to give soup and bread. This the rich can do. You are the servant of the poor, always smiling and good-humored. They are your masters, terribly sensitive and exacting master you will see. And the uglier and the dirtier they will be, the more unjust and insulting, the more love you must give them. It is only for your love alone that the poor will forgive you the bread you give to them."

St Vincent De Paul

David said...

In the late-80s, there was a guy who haunted 5th Avenue in midtown. He would approach people and say that he was from Canada, he had just been mugged, and he needed money to get a bus ticket home. He always had fresh bruises on his face.

Finally, he approached me when I was walking down 5th with my parents who were in town visting. I had sort of had it by this time, and maybe I wanted to show my parents how I was now a hardened New Yorker, so I told him that this was the third or fourth time he'd tried his con on me and the next time I'd call the cops.

He looked shocked, and asked "Why would you be so mean?"

Paddy O said...

Paddy O will offer a more insightful answer,

ha! At least maybe one with more complex sentences that finally, after bobbing and weaving, arrive at a point.

Pogo is correct. No, there's no requirement to give. Christianity has a value of giving to the needy, but not the sort of generalized merit of alms-giving for its own sake that, I think, is part of other religions.

Of course, the only verse I can think of is Acts 3, where Peter says he doesn't have silver or gold, but instead heals the guy.

Scamming is also very frowned upon. Ananias and Sapphira scammed the church in Acts 5. They were killed.

Then again, because scamming isn't new this has been a longstanding question. One early church writer, I forget who, said that it is better to give to someone who asks, because it's better to give and possibly be scammed than to withhold help from someone genuinely needing it. But, that was a suggestion, not a requirement.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

A fool and his/her money...

A fool and her parent's money.....

If you haven't worked for the money or for the glorious things that have been showered upon you all of your life...you have no concept of money.

Standing on your feet for 8 hours a day as a waitress, digging a ditch, working at a desk for minimum wage. Getting a paycheck and seeing how much is swept away for taxes.

These things give you perspective on just how hard it is and what the value of money. $100 means something

You realize how many hours of your life you have to trade for that $100 and have to decide if the purchase or spending of that money is worth it.

When it is just given to you and there seems to be an endless supply of money for free....$100 means nothing.

You do your children no favors: by giving them everything you have given them nothing.

ErnieG said...

This is what is known as the "distressed stranger" scam. I have had it attempted on me several times with variations. Horribly desperate people have failed to meet me at a gas station a block away, or at a nearby Wal-Mart for groceries. They just wanted the money.

Dave said...

Really Paddy O? How do you interpret Matthew 25: 34- 46. Sure we are saved by undeserved grace but we are also commanded to love God first and then our neighbor. Can you say you love God and then ignore His command?

Works of mercy of course do not always translate to dollars, but we are expected as Christians to work in the vineyard.

Pogo said...

"You give, not because they deserve it (that's justice not mercy/grace), or will spend it wisely, but because they have need."

Hogwash.

How do you know they have 'need', other than that they say so?

Is it not immoral to further a decline into alcoholism and drug abuse? What if your donation speeds their fall into petty theft and then prison?

Blood on your hands, it is.

Paddy O said...

Clement of Alexandria, "Who is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved?":

XXXIII. How then does man give these things? For I will give not only to friends, but to the friends of friends. And who is it that is the friend of God? Do not you judge who is worthy or who is unworthy. For it is possible you may be mistaken in your opinion.

As in the uncertainty of ignorance it is better to do good to the undeserving for the sake of the deserving, than by guarding against those that are less good to fail to meet in with the good.

For though sparing, and aiming at testing, who will receive meritoriously or not, it is possible for you to neglect some that are loved by God; the penalty for which is the punishment of eternal fire. But by offering to all in turn that need, you must of necessity by all means find some one of those who have power with God to save.

"Judge not, then, that you be not judged. With what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again; Matthew 7:1-2; Luke 6:37-38 good measure, pressed and shaken, and running over, shall be given to you." Open your compassion to all who are enrolled the disciples of God; not looking contemptuously to personal appearance, nor carelessly disposed to any period of life.

Nor if one appears penniless, or ragged, or ugly, or feeble, do you fret in soul at this and turn away. This form is cast around us from without, the occasion of our entrance into this world, that we may be able to enter into this common school. But within dwells the hidden Father, and His Son, who died for us and rose with us.

Pogo said...

"but we are expected as Christians to work in the vineyard."

There's that word, 'work'.

Roger J. said...

There is also the homeless viet nam vet scam--in memphis they have their territory near interstate exists--when feeling particularly uncharitable and ignoring them, I will on occasion tell them to hop in the bed of the truck and rakes leaves at ten dollars an hour. They NEVER take me up on that.

Pogo said...

I'm guessing Clement never met Misty Gaines.

edutcher said...

Sounds like she just learned a lesson in fairness and redistribution of wealth.

It's not fair the mark has all that money and they want it redistributed. Now if it was their hard-earned money and not their parents'...

Ann Althouse said...

I was taught about scams like this when I was about 12. Why are young people allowed to wander around in public in such a state of innocence.

Because poor people are always virtuous. Just like black people can't be racist.

You weren't paying attention in undergrad school.

I have never given a stranger money like this or even allowed anyone to begin to tell me a story like this. In fact, I think I've always known, since the age at which I was allowed to walk freely in public, that you don't let people prey on you like this, and I think, as a result, I don't even get approached. I don't look approachable.

Teach your kids that before you send them out into the world.


The crusty Conservative coating is getting deeper and harder.

Roger J. said...

exits not exists

NYTNewYorker said...

Hey, everybody can do it, it's fun!

The world's richest panhandler: Man who begs for money on New York streets revealed to be legendary comedian living in $3.5m home (but he gives it all to charity)

Paddy O said...

Really Paddy O? How do you interpret Matthew 25: 34- 46.

I interpret this to mean that we give water to the thirsty. We visit the prisoners in prison. Give clothes to those who need clothes. Be hospitable to a stranger. And look after the sick.

Which, going to Palladian's questions, motives matter. We don't have to give to someone just because they want our money. There's certainly discernment involved, and the stories above show that not all who ask are in need.

We are to give to those in need. Often giving indiscriminately to scammers gives us a sense of validation, at which point we then ignore those in our lives who are less forthright about demanding our response.

Roger J. said...

AllenS--only if I get to drink it with you. And distressing news from Libya--it appears that some of the late Q-man's amazon guardians were killed in the firefight--Alas--hope the Ukranian nurse made it out OK

ndspinelli said...

I do give leftovers to homeless folks right after I exit a restaurant. I've given some great food in Chicago, NY, San Diego, etc. Most genuinely appreciate it, but I look for folks that aren't panhandling.

Joe said...

(The Uncredentialed, Crypto Jew)
It does bring up an interesting moral question, at least for serious followers of Christianity: does Christ require you to give to those who ask, regardless of the asker's motives

I am informed, not being either Christian or Buddhist, that Buddhists have a term, “Fools Compassion.” When your alcoholic friend asks for money and you give it to them you are being foolishly compassionate…you are, in many cases, KNOWINGLY aiding a person destroy themselves. You might buy them food, might pay their rent, might sponsor them in Rehab…but you should NOT provide them money, knowing that they will take that money and drink.

I’ve been approached by scammers, I think…with the long story about needing “X” amount of money in order to achieve some end…rent, or laundry, or food…I generally offer to go and BUY the food, or go to the laundry…I believe I offered to walk with the person to the land lord and pay the last $20 that the person owed….

Long story short, “No” as Pogo said, much more eloquently…you are NOT required to give…WHAT THAT PERSON ASKS FOR…Yhwh expects us to provide for the poor, though…they may ask for money, you ought to PROVIDE food, or shelter or the service requested….So no, you don’t have to give..MONEY…but you can offer to help….generally that separates the wheat from the chaff of the needy or the scammers. As someone else pointed out, when they offered a meal and the beggar accepted…

edutcher said...

Roger J. said...

AllenS--only if I get to drink it with you. And distressing news from Libya--it appears that some of the late Q-man's amazon guardians were killed in the firefight--Alas--hope the Ukranian nurse made it out OK

Fear not, she is back in the Ukraine.

Leon said...

Ha I got off cheap.
I'm visiting my missionary parents in Africa. Last week I was at another missionaries' house doing some fix-it work while they were out. An old man came by with a sad tale and need for money for the bus. Instead of giving him money I took him up and bought the rest of his ticket. I made him put in all his money first. I think he was going to try to get a refund once I left but he filled the bus (privately owned mini-buses only go when they fill up) and they left. They stopped to get gas and he wanted the ticket. Those buses never give refunds so I don't know what good it would do him anyways.
End result was he left on the bus to go 115 miles into the country with no money or luggage. Four dollars well spent if you ask me. I may not have solved any problems but I did move them out of my neighbor hood.

Dave said...

If you fail to give because you have good reason to believe it's a scam and but you give in other cases I wouldn't be concerned. There is a subjective and uncertain aspect to this, you make your own calls.

"Is it not immoral to further a decline into alcoholism and drug abuse? What if your donation speeds their fall into petty theft and then prison?"

You have no part in their choice to steal. It does not follow that your gift would promote theft - more likely it'd delay it. I agree that giving to addicts doesn't help them much if at all.

Paddy O said...

Working in the vineyard means tending to the grapes, not nurturing the weeds.

Scammers are those who are willing to lie, to deceive, are not in need.

In 2 Thessalonians 3:

6 In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers and sisters, to keep away from every believer who is idle and disruptive and does not live according to the teaching[a] you received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example.

We were not idle when we were with you, 8 nor did we eat anyone’s food without paying for it. On the contrary, we worked night and day, laboring and toiling so that we would not be a burden to any of you.

9 We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”

11 We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 12 Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat. 13 And as for you, brothers and sisters, never tire of doing what is good.


There's also the Didache, 11:

But concerning the apostles and prophets, act according to the decree of the Gospel. Let every apostle who comes to you be received as the Lord. But he shall not remain more than one day; or two days, if there's a need. But if he remains three days, he is a false prophet.

And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges. If he asks for money, he is a false prophet. And every prophet who speaks in the Spirit you shall neither try nor judge; for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven. But not every one who speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; but only if he holds the ways of the Lord.

Therefore from their ways shall the false prophet and the prophet be known. And every prophet who orders a meal in the Spirit does not eat it, unless he is indeed a false prophet.

And every prophet who teaches the truth, but does not do what he teaches, is a false prophet. And every prophet, proved true, working unto the mystery of the Church in the world, yet not teaching others to do what he himself does, shall not be judged among you, for with God he has his judgment; for so did also the ancient prophets. But whoever says in the Spirit, Give me money, or something else, you shall not listen to him. But if he tells you to give for others' sake who are in need, let no one judge him.


Palladian asks, "does Christ require you to give to those who ask, regardless of the asker's motives?"

Pogo was right when he answered, "'No' is correct."

Roger J. said...

Many years ago (during the Guiliani administration in NYC) NPR interviewed a "homeless beggar."

His response to the interview was quite interesting: he said he made 60-80 dollars a day and didnt have to work. Some of these folks are quite good at cost-benefit analysis.

Joe said...

(The Uncredentialed, Crypto Jew)


Notice Christ is saying He’s giving “things” to people, not fungible items…he didn’t say “When I was (Saying) I was naked you gave me money.” He says, “When I naked you CLOTHED me.” The person was NAKED and you gave them CLOTHES…

They weren’t on the street saying, “Hey man I need a new shirt, can you spare a dime?” Jesus might recommend that you go and buy this person a new shirt, IF your children have warm clothing, or your Spouse (Jesus didn’t say love others more than yourself, or love others more than your children or spouse), but Jesus doesn’t seem to be saying, that because someone asks for money, you owe it…

I don’t think this Jesus fellow said you Christians should be a bunch of shmoks.

YoungHegelian said...

@Paddy + Dave

I wonder how the notion of Christian charity gets changed when the giver lives in a world of plenty versus a world of scarcity.

In Jesus' or Clement's time, there were lots of poor, and they were obviously poor. A lifetime of poverty had marked their bodies in ways that were obvious. They weren't evil. They weren't lazy. They just weren't born into the upper classes. Acts of Christian charity could spell the difference between life and death for someone on the bottom rung.

Nowadays, you'll never see such poverty in the US, unless we have another Great Depression. Most panhandlers are, in essence, scammers.

Does it change the nature of "handout" charity if in Clement's day 97 out of 100 recipients were legit, versus today when 9 out of 10 are scams?

Dave said...

I agree with your reading Paddy O, discernment is precisely the correct term.

I just accept that getting scammed out of few dollars it not much real risk, compared with loosing an opportunity act mercifully. Also to be fair I struggle with this a lot and go back and forth on what the proper approach is. I live in a poor city, lots of people are truly poor here.

I expect I'm lied to now and then, but most of the panhandlers I know are out there regularly and you can tell they live outdoors and have missed meals. Sometimes I wonder how they survive at all. Sure many of them are drunks or addicts or both, but it doesn't make them less human.

Pogo said...

"Sure many of them are drunks or addicts or both, but it doesn't make them less human."

True, but one should be concerned that you are furthering there exile from a life of potential and self-discovery.

If -in effect- I buy a guy some vodka when he needs addiction treatment, how is that a good thing?

edutcher said...

Joe said...
(The Uncredentialed, Crypto Jew)

Notice Christ is saying He’s giving “things” to people, not fungible items…he didn’t say “When I was (Saying) I was naked you gave me money.” He says, “When I naked you CLOTHED me.” The person was NAKED and you gave them CLOTHES…



I don’t think this Jesus fellow said you Christians should be a bunch of shmoks.


Well put.

Dave said...

@YoungHelgian

I agree that in a wealthy society many people are poor due to their own mistakes, like drug use etc. Many grow up without anything like a healthy family and get a terrible start: not that that excuses crime or other extreme failures In justice they may not be worthy of charity. However that's part of the point.
As I understand it in Christian terms mercy > justice. No one deserves grace: it's a gift from the rich and generous God to His poor wretched/unworthy creations. Everyday I go to mass and say "I am unworthy to receive you ..." God is gracious and I seek to in my imperfect/ flawed way to imitate Him. Giving to the poor without judging them is a reflection of what I hope God will do for me after death. The wealth of modern society changes nothing in that formula.

Pogo said...

Turns out I was a beggar once myself.

One college summer during the recession of the early 80s, I hitchhiked to western SoDak to look for work.

I slept under a bridge several nights in Rapid City, totally outta dough. No jobs to be found.

One morning, startled awake by moths in my sleeping bag, I found myself a few feet from a sleeping Indian. My moth-eaten surprise awakened him, and he was clearly drunk.

He said "Gimme some money, man."

I said, "Hell, I'll bet you have more money than I do."

Indian: "OK. The one that has less money gets to keep the other guy's."

Me: "Deal."

I won his $2.
Pogo the Panhandler.

Pogo said...

"Giving to the poor without judging them is a reflection of what I hope God will do for me after death. "

I think I understand.

No one advocates judging them, but one must be a good steward of resources, and judgement about what they need is key. Cash ain't king in the world of charity; sometimes it's a barrier to real assistance.

Dave said...

Good point Pogo there are better ways to help in many cases then handing over a few bucks, which truth be told is far easier. Your point is well taken.

Sometimes I give away a jacket or umbrella if its raining, that always strikes me as more effective, more on point. In the parable of the Good Samaritan the man is aided at great length and inconvenience. Fact is: I'm not that good, not as I should be.

Paddy O said...

"Also to be fair I struggle with this a lot and go back and forth on what the proper approach is"

I do too, and basically used to follow your rule about giving and not thinking too much about it. The trouble with living in the LA area, however, is that scammers abound so much, and I simply don't have money to give out to all who ask. We give money to organizations, like the LA Mission, and others who are providing real services to those who, in their actual need, seek help.

"most of the panhandlers I know are out there regularly"

My trouble here is that most of the panhandlers are out there regularly, then gather at night with their bottles of vodka, etc. getting drunk.

We don't live in a society where the poor are completely abandoned, and for every very sad case of actual unavoidable poverty or mental illness, there are the people who really have made a lifestyle choice. I think I am called to help the former, but not the latter. And living in LA, where the weather is great, means there's a lot of the latter. But how do I tell the difference? It helps my moral situation to be relatively poor myself.

What's sad is how many scammers take advantage of the supposed moral obligations and go straight to a church office. There's a regular stream of people who go from church to church asking for handouts--bigger handouts -- and most of them are scammers. Which is very sad.

Taking advantage of the disadvantaged by pretending to be among them is a very, very bad moral place to be.

Joe said...

(The Uncredentialed, Crypto Jew)
Fact is: I'm not that good, not as I should be

None of us is….that’s why we have Yhwh…if were all, or even most of us, even 80% of what Yhwh Expects, there’d be no need for synagogues.

Michael The Magnificent said...

The college I attended rented the front-half of a former church. A few of my classes were held in that building.

In the back of that same building was a soup kitchen. Bums would frequently hit me up for pocket change for "breakfast" or "coffee" as I waited for the light to change to cross the street.

I was a student with limited funds, but not so limited that I ever missed a meal. So I would frequently contribute a dollar to help the poor homeless person get a meal.

One day one of the bums hit me up in front of a professor. After the transaction, as we crossed the street, the professor suggested I conduct an experiment. He suggested that whenever someone asked me for money for coffee or food, I should tell them I just so happen to be on my way to George Webbs (a local diner chain), and if they come with me, I will buy them the coffee or food they are requesting money for.

Being an engineering student, I just couldn't resist conducting an experiment of this sort.

It's such a fun experiment that I am still conducting it to this day, decades later. And wouldn't you know it, not one of them has EVER taken me up on my offer.

Do not EVER give someone money. If they claim to need food, and you are the generous sort, then give them food.

But if they turn down your offer for food, and insist on money, they were gong to use the money for something other than food, such as drugs and/or alcohol.

Enabling an addict by giving them money is hurting them, not helping them.

YoungHegelian said...

@Dave,

The difference between Man's charity and God's grace is that God's grace is always effective and always ameliorative. I think Paddy's and Pogo's point is that Man's charity isn't.

While, from the viewpoint of your good intentions, handout charity is not blameworthy FOR YOU no matter what the recipient does with it, I think the virtue of prudence requires a broader, strategic vision of what the recipient really needs.

WV: "risive" Do you find the name Bigus Dickus risive?

Dave said...

"What's sad is how many scammers take advantage of the supposed moral obligations and go straight to a church office. "

I know this is true to some degree here in Memphis as well, maybe not as bad as in LA. I've heard it directly from the Monsignor who runs our parish.

MaggotAtBroad&Wall said...

I lived at 76th and 3rd in NYC for a few years. There was a short stretch of time when every morning there was a guy on the 77th street subway platform with his guitar singing tunes. He was actually quite good. One day I looked in his guitar case where people who appreciated being serenaded on their way to work dropped spare change. I saw a fair number of bills with denominations greater than $1. I figured the dude was making at least $100 per hour strumming his guitar and singing tunes to Wall Streeters on their way to work.

When he stopped showing up, the rumor was that one of the people who heard him was a music company executive who invited him to an audition and ultimately signed him to a record deal. I don't know if that was true, but I remember thinking "man, what a country". A guy gets discovered while panhandling on a subway platform.

Dave said...

@Michael

I've run a similar experiment and had takers.

I take it as fact that there are superior ways to give than simply through cash, but I'd rather err on the side of generosity than do nothing.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

A guy gets discovered while panhandling on a subway platform.

Great story and I hope it is true.

I don't consider playing an instrument and getting donations as panhandling or bumming for money.

The guy was DOING something. Something that people appreciated and felt worthwhile. He wasn't just asking for money for nothing. He was using his skills and actually....working. I would give him money also and I 'never' give panhandlers money.

Joe said...

(The Uncredentialed, Crypto Jew)


Also realize that there may be Yhwh’s Grace and the like, but there’s also “Guilt”. Don’t be guilty…I think when we act from Guilt, “I feel bad for this person, I feel guilty (somehow) for this person)”; we act to MAKE OURSELVES FEEL BETTER. Yhwh wants us to help our fellow man, and that is irrespective of our “feelings.” Your “help” can anger or please, and go to enemy or friend…

Helping a Bum, might mean offering to buy the food…and refusing the money…even if that person was a friend at one time…

The “help” might consist of bombing, fighting over, and occupying Germany…to rescue Germans from Hitler….

Yhwh wants us to help, friends or enemies…and help may not be giving what the person asks for, but giving them what they need…

I think a lot of Charity is given out of “feelings” and a need to make OURSELVES feel better, not the help the needy…

Michael said...

A young man went from office to office in a Philadelphia building and offered free introductory shoe shines. He was an enterprising youth and the business guys liked him and paid in advance for his coupon books of twelve shines for the price ten. The introductory shine was a thing of beauty, professionally executed and with spectacular results. the kid sold the books at $30 each. Sold them to every gent who took the free introductory shoe shine. And he never came back.

Even very sophisticated people can fall for the scam.

Dave said...

Here it is the quote I was looking for:

The poor will be judged on the use they have made of their alms, and you will be judged on the very alms that you could have given but haven’t.

— St. John Vianney

Dave said...

"I think a lot of Charity is given out of “feelings” and a need to make OURSELVES feel better, not the help the needy…"

You're right, without doubt

Michael The Magnificent said...

@Dave,

I live a blessed life. Should anyone begging for money in order to buy a meal ever take me up on my counter-offer of my buying them a meal, I fully intend on living up to it.

I am not heartless, though I am not witless either.

Dave said...

I don't claim to give with perfect motives or to always act in the true best interests of the recipient. Not at all, that's way down the road, assuming I'll ever get there. I give in part to loosen my grip on the material and to help me see that "bum" as a real person.
Over time it has helped, I see a difference in myself. Truthfully I've not seen much of a difference in those I've given to, just in a few cases. What has happened is that, over time, I get to know a few in a real way and learn their problems (often self-inflicted) and their stories. Occasionally I can help them in other non-financial ways. Sometimes just a respectful conversation/prayer is all I have. It's a work in progress, certainly.

Oligonicella said...

Althouse -

"I assume she was under pressure from her own moral values and the empathy she's been encouraged to display."

And this is why I don't want empathy in our judges. You get swayed instead of making a sound decision.

Methadras said...

$100! Was that her parents' hard-earned money she handed over?

Now you know why it's so easy for leftards and government bureaucrats to hand other peoples money over so easily.

Oligonicella said...

Dave --

"I take it as fact that there are superior ways to give than simply through cash, but I'd rather err on the side of generosity than do nothing."

Which is absolutely your right to do and, as long as you don't criticize others for their manner of giving, they won't criticize yours. Sounds fair.

Dr Weevil said...

Someone has already mentioned Irwin Corey. For an even more amazing example of unnecessary begging, consider Eddie the Monkey Man. I have never forgotten his 1979 Washington Post obituary, which had even more detail than the linked item in Time.

Chuck66 said...

Ohhhh Misty, you are so not ready for the real world.

Hey Misty, ummmm, I am a homeless single father and a veteran and I haven't eaten in 3 days. Can you give me $100? God Bless.

Chuck66 said...

When people ask me for free money, I politely decline. Then I give some money to a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. That way those truely in need get something and not the local liquor store.

Naomi said...

"What's sad is how many scammers take advantage of the supposed moral obligations and go straight to a church office. "

This has gotten to be such a big problem that nearly all the churches in our small town have banded together to make sure their charity isn't abused. All callers get the same answer "We support the local food pantry, if you go there they will be happy to give you the papers to fill out and help you." It's sad but no one here, or congregation here, has the resources to be scammed and still help those in real need.

Michael said...

Philo of Alexandria said it well: be kind for they too are engaged in a great struggle.

I occasionally give to a guy who begs at a stoplight I have to negotiate daily. He obviously lives in the woods nearby and he obviously drinks or drugs the money away, but there you have it. I don't give him a dollar or two. When I give him anything I give him twenty. I am conflicted about this. Mightily. Every year his decline is more evident to me, his health obviously tenuous. He doesn't do the story routine. He walks between the cars with his hat out. I pray for him but I expect that is more for my own benefit than for his. I expect one day he won't be walking between the cars any more. Maybe soon.

Dave said...

@ Michael

I can relate.

Chuck66

I think yours is a good approach.

I find that I can't easily say no on the spot and I'm conflicted about whether my couple of bucks helps or hurts.

Dave said...

Another small point - when your faced with a man in need you need to act decide right then. Giving to the soup kitchen is laudable, but I cant do it at the stoplight. My choice is either to ignore the man or help him. When I'm in that spot all I can think of the parable of the poor Lazarus who the rich man ignored.

Dr Weevil said...

Thirty years ago a scruffy guy sitting on the sidewalk in front of the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco tried a different line: "I ain't gonna lie to you. I need some money to get drunk. You got a dollar or two I can have?" (If I remember rightly, most bums asked for a quarter back then.)

I appreciated his honesty so much that it almost worked, and I was a bit regretful when I said "Sorry, no". Of course, I was also laughing at (or with?) his line.

Twenty years ago, near Union Station in D.C., a bum asked for money and said "I'm soooo hungry". I told him he could have my apple and one of my two PBJs, but I needed the other PBJ and the corn chips for my own lunch. He said "What kind of fool do you take me for?" or something like that, which was really inexcusably rude. Any meal that's good enough for a programmer-analyst working 50+ hours a week is damned well good enough for a supposedly starving beggar.

Joe said...

(The Uncredentialed, Crypto Jew)
but I can’t do it at the stoplight. My choice is either to ignore the man or help him. When I'm in that spot all I can think of the parable of the poor Lazarus who the rich man ignored

Well I’m going to get some Gahanna Points for this….Dood/doodette you’re missing a boat here…Charity/Mercy is not something you “wind up” on the Sabbath or do when it’s CONVENIENT. In this case you show up late for work, because you took the person to a restaurant and bought them food. I believe that that Jesus fellow has, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan delaying his journey, spending some of his time, not just his cash to help the Jew who had been robbed and beaten. Giving money, to the homeless is giving money to the crazy and/or drug addicted, you are not, necessarily, helping them. Giving them food IS helping them, but it requires some of your time. My advice is harden your heart Pharaoh OR be a little late for work and take the bum to Denny’s or the Huddle House or the Waffle House and buy some food. I know it’s preachy of me, and it’s advice I don’t follow that often myself. As Cahtolics say, mea Culpa, mea culpea, mea maxima culpea.

Ann Althouse said...

"What do you do to stop people from talking to you on the street? Taser them at first sight?"

I am sufficiently in the know that it emanates from my entire being and the grifter hears the message: Don't fuck with me.

LilyBart said...

I never give to panhandlers. They're pretty good at working the heartstrings, and its difficult to tell the truly needy from the panhandlers.

So, what I've done is to search out private charities in my town who have expertise in helping the homeless and needy. (I check them out first to ensure they have a low overhead). I give generouly to these groups. This way, I've answered God's call to aid the needy without making myself a patsy for panhandlers. My money goes for REAL help - not to support the lifestyles and habits of alcoholics and drug addicts.

frank said...

Go to your local Veterans Hospital and get scammed for a cigarette or a quarter. Not sure if this says anything about society in general or 'class' in particular, heh, [sorry for the commas].

frank said...

Then again Madison, being Madison, is in a class by itself with regard to societal norms, doncha think?