To give or not to give

Write a column about how to deal with panhandlers and you're certain to get heated responses on all sides. So it was with Liz Pulliam Westons's column for MSN Money. She presents a pretty even-handed look at the dilemma, but was nonetheless inundated with comments. A few samples:

This article is ridiculous. If you cannot pull out even a buck to hand to one or two people who have been left out by our system, then I believe that your education is a loss -- even if you went to Harvard. Yet, after working in Manhattan for two years, the attitude seems to be like that of one of the message posters: "I am enabling bad behavior." Well, stand in line for your 'F' in common sense sociology. Apparently they don't teach the parable of the Good Samaritan anymore. It has been replaced by "The Millionaire Next Door" and "Rich Dad, Poor Dad." Anyone who would whine over this issue is an idiot. There is absolutely no threat from those people (not "panhandlers") in the broad daylight on the streets of Manhattan.

There was also this:

Your advice to those who prefer not to give, especially the admonition to remain civil, while sound, was really quite irritating. I can think of no good reason to follow my "No" with a "Thank you." For what am I thanking the panhandler? Certainly not the opportunity of being approached for money, nor any witty dialogue that might otherwise ensue. In fact, the very notion of thanking the one requesting a handout, again, seems to me, to reinforce the guilt that some people feel when they decline to give. My approach is better. When asked, I reply that "I have no money to give you." It's simple, civil, direct, and conveys the message that the discussion is over, without my having to explain myself, or my motives, to a stranger.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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