For the first time in awhile, I saw someone stopping to pull out her wallet to take out a dollar to hand to a panhandler. This made me think of the changes in me since I first started riding BART long ago.
As you know, we see a wide variety of characters in BART stations. Long ago, I used to give money to older homeless folks, female panhandlers with kids, and any homeless folks with pets. I also used to buy the "Street Beat" (can't recall the name) or the newsletters shelters encourage the homeless to sell. It got to the point that I knew who was going to be where on what day. I knew who to expect at each corner and what they'll say. I had money ready in my pocket before I saw them!! I guess you can call me naive or pure hearted back then....I actually believed that the dollar or two, sometimes more, I gave them was going into something that will make a positive impact.
Eventually, I stopped, at least with the homeless (I on occasions give money to performers if they are really impressive and if I'm in a good mood). I realized that I've been giving the same young man money next to the same Starbucks for a few years now and he's not even young anymore. If I get to work earlier, I see him lying next to a bottle in a brown paper bag. I also noticed during volunteer events that while the homeless come in smelling like alcohol, they do not want to go to the alcohol abuse assistance kiosk...they want to go straight to the freebies and leave right after. For a few years now, I've stopped giving money to the homeless although my heart sinks and I give in when I see them lying next to the extremely underweight and malnourished dogs. While they have the brains to know that help exists, the dogs depend on them for survival. But I have to ask myself, is my money actually going into food for the dogs or to a pack of cigarettes? Somehow I don't want to know.
Was this woman I saw like the old me? I wonder how long will she continue to pass out money for? At some point, I would expect her to become disheartened like the rest of us.