The problem with beggars is that they beg. It makes people feel uncomfortable. We don't like being put on the spot. Its as though we are challenged: are you a good person? Will you help out the needy? Or are we so callous and indifferent we won't "cough up" the change in our pocket? Observing people's reactions to handling the homeless, panhandlers, and beggars, one can quickly deduce that "blindness" is the most overt strategy employed. I don't see you. You don't exist. Or I can ignore you to the extent you might as well not exist.
Life always presents us choices. With regard to those looking for a handout, I utilize a number of different options depending on how I feel at the moment. One choice I've made is to buy apples and offer an apple rather than change. (this eliminates the excuse they will use the money towards drugs or alcohol) Another is when I go through my closet for Goodwill or the Salvation Army, I throw a few T-Shirts (spring/summer) or coats (fall/winter) in a separate bag in my car trunk. That way I can offer a clean piece of clothing that may be more welcome than 53 cents.
One thing I always try to do is look them straight in the eye. I also do my best to smile. I believe that acknowledging them is worth more than a small amount of change. I think their self-esteem benefits from it. I believe I benefit from it as well and I'll tell you why. It gives me the chance to explore my personal integrity. Do I do things because it is expected of me? Do I do things because I feel trapped? Do I do things and then resent the fact that I did them?
Some people pay therapist's a lot of money to discover those personality traits. Wouldn't it be something if we could view beggars in a whole new light? Rather than a nuisance, perhaps we could see them as street corner therapy. Available night and day to let us monitor where we are at and how we are doing. That's no small gift. Maybe even worthy of some spare change or a dollar bill.
UPDATE: June 10th Seems as though there is some collaboration going on. It feels good.
UPDATE: August 7th Gaining traction. Awesome!