Begging for money in Dallas: Offer help or not?

Folding-Cash-Money-150x150There are all kinds of stories, in print and online, about “paying it forward” and helping people at grocery counters or restaurants or wherever people are in need, which honestly is just about everywhere.

So I was having lunch at a fast-food restaurant the other day with my wife, one of our sons, and one of my wife’s co-workers. A guy enters the restaurant with a plastic bag slung over his shoulder and a neat, clean t-shirt with the logo of a Dallas church on the back. It’s 100-plus degrees outside, but I notice the guy’s not sweating.

He stands inside the door and, in a polite but raised voice, starts talking about his wife being outside and needing money for food and DART so they can get somewhere Downtown. Exactly where he was going wasn’t clear to me, but we were nowhere near Downtown.

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I generally apologize and say “sorry” to people asking for money. Occasionally I give someone a couple of bucks when they offer up a story about how their “car is broken down” or they’ve “just gotten out of jail” because it’s possible they’re telling the truth; you never know, and the bottom line with giving to me is that money be given for the right reason (to help) regardless of how it is received. If the giver later turns food money into whiskey, I might feel a little stupid but I gave for the right reason.

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Anyway, back to my lunch: The guy kept talking loudly to the half-full restaurant, and people began looking uncomfortable, myself included. But the guy persisted, standing directly behind me, until the store manager walked up and quietly told him: “We can’t have you in here.”

Along about this time, my wife suggested that we give the guy enough money for some food, since that’s what he said he wanted. So I reached into my wallet while turning around in my chair, pulled out a $10 bill and handed it to the store manager. I had some doubts about “enabling” this guy (he just didn’t seem legit), but what the heck: He said he was hungry, we were in a restaurant, and I had $10 on me.

The manager was kind of annoyed, because she clearly just wanted the guy gone. She asked what she should do with the money. My wife said to give the guy a “big” sandwich meal, which would extinguish most of the $10, so the guy and the manager walked over to the counter.

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Next thing you know, the guy is yelling and swearing loudly at the manager, saying (this is the family-friendly version): “Don’t talk to me like that! You can’t say that to me! What’s wrong with you! Get away from me!”

What triggered this outburst: “What sandwich do you want?” the manager had asked.

Anyway, the guy continued yelling as he stormed out the door and down the sidewalk as the manager triggered the silent police alarm under the counter. The manger handed me back my $10 bill and shook her head. My wife looked stunned. Our son worried that maybe we should have jumped to the manager’s defense. My wife’s co-worker didn’t say anything, nor did anyone else in the restaurant.

Lunch was over.

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