Give Freely: mini-mission

Man vs. Debt posed the following question: “Do you give to Panhandlers” and the comments (all 215 of them) were really interesting. Here are a few examples:

“In the US, I don’t give money to panhandlers. I just assume many of them are going to use it on drink and quite honestly, I don’t want to encourage more of them to hang out on street corners asking for money.”

“Because I can’t assess their true “need” situation, I’m not comfortable giving them cash.”

“If I have something to give – I give. I believe I’ve been blessed to be a blessing to others.
I am a very giving person but when it comes to pan handlers, I am not so giving. Not to say I don’t help any pan handlers, I just am very leery when they approach me. I feel most of the time they are lying about why they need the money.”

“It just doesn’t fly with me. I also think many choose to live that way.”

This mini-mission is not a question, or a command, but an invitation to give freely.

Let go of your need to decide who deserves what. That’s not your job, or responsibility. It feels good to give without judgement. Give your spare change to panhandlers, or a cup of coffee, or a meal. Keep snack packs and bottled water in your car to distribute when you have the opportunity. Make sandwiches and give them away to people in need at a park in your community.

Reasons people don’t give

  • They feel uncomfortable
  • They think the money will be used for drugs
  • They think people should help themselves
  • They think someone else will help
  • They are strapped financially
  • They think they are supporting homelessness

Instead of thinking, analyzing and judging, give what you can. Remember that many people asking us for help may not be able to navigate government programs for assistance. Most people standing by the side the road, or under a bridge did not choose this lifestyle because they are too lazy to work. There are mental, physical and social issues that stand between them and the life we might think they should lead.

You are not considering whether or not to sign over your 401K, give your home away or  sell your house and donate 1/2, so don’t put so much pressure on the decision. Remember, it’s an invitation. An invitation to brighten someones day, an invitation to judge less and give more.

If you give freely, you will not make someone an alcoholic, keep someone on the streets, or perpetuate homelessness. It may be a dollar to you, but be open to the possibility that you are giving one person hope with your contribution.

Do you give freely? Will you?

For more experiments to simplify your life, read Mini-missions for Simplicity. It’s available on the Amazon Kindle store, but you don’t need a Kindle to read it. Kindle books can also be read using the Free Kindle Reader App for your Web Browser, PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, BlackBerry, or Android.


  1. says

    I have always tried to keep the mentality when giving that it is not my responsibility as to where they use the money, it is my responsibility to give freely and to pray that they receive a little bit of hope in that moment…. and, hopefully they will use it for good. =)

  2. Carrie says

    Money is not the only thing we can give to panhandlers. While I give money to charities that work with the homeless and those at risk for it, I do not give money on the street. But I acknowledge them as fellow humans by looking them in the eye, smiling, and saying “sorry” to their request. Many will smile back. I greet the homeless men, yes many drinking beer mid-day, who I see regularly in the alley near near my workplace. You are so right that we do not know the physical, mental and social issues that brought them there. We can offer courtesy even if we choose not to give money (and I encourage everyone to give money generously somewhere).

  3. says

    This post has given me a lot to think about. Thank you.

    I have always been a giver, but of time. I choose to volunteer quite a bit and feel good for doing so. But when it comes to giving money, I would always choose an organized charity over a panhandler in the street. Why? Because I judge what they will spend the money on.

    Most of the panhandlers near my home have addictions. I don’t think that I can overlook my judgements and give knowing what those panhandlers will likely spend their money on. In some ways I think it would be irresponsible of me to support a habit and lifestyle that I know is destroying their lives.

    But, as I say, this post has given me something to think about. I’ll have to look deep and really consider where I think the line needs to be drawn. Where does my judgement stop and my social responsibility begin?

  4. says

    Great Post! Very convicting. I’ve always struggled with what to do with panhandlers. Thanks for the encouragement.

  5. says

    One of my dad’s friends always used to fill his pockets with coins and give to anyone who asked no (internal/external) questions asked.

    I’ve been in the gutter (metaphorically), and it’s only by the grace of Grace that I’m able to give. Not my moral obligation to instruct the (ample) poor around me here in Brasília…

    If they by booze I’ve still told them (w/a BR Real) that “I am human; you are human; I love you. Period.” I try to pull out some groceries, but I don’t really care too much.

    The end is love, and to be love. Coins are one, well, currency of in the economy of Mercy. Prince or pauper, we’re all beggars in this economy.

    Thanks for the XCLNT words.


  6. says

    Good points.

    I don’t encounter panhandlers much where I live now, but I used to live in New York City and run into them all the time. I started keeping change in my pocket to give to any who asked. There was one guy in particular that I ran into every day near my office, and over time, I started talking to him. He said really the best thing for him would be fruit, so I started buying a bunch of grapes or a few oranges on the way in so I’d have them for him. He was really nice, just having a hard time, and really appreciated the fruit. I was only there for the summer, but when I went back for a conference a year later, he was in a training program, learning to be a copy machine repairman. It was cool to see him again, but I hope if I went back now, he’d be long gone from that corner and off fixing copy machines.

    I think it’s easy to be afraid when we see panhandlers. There’s the basic fear that they’ll mug us or whatever, but more than that, they remind us that we could end up on the street ourselves. I don’t know what the best answer is, and my mom would kick my butt if she knew how much time I spent talking to the panhandlers when I was in New York, but I do think it’s important to remember that they’re people, too.

  7. Susan says

    Giving with hesitation and reservation or with a pre-conceived notion of what the person might DO with your donation is not in the least bit satisfying. A year or so ago I bought a purse at a thrift store while on vacation. As I prepared to load my stuff into it…I noticed a crisp 50 dollar bill stuck way down in one of the front cargo pockets. I still have that same crisp 50 dollar bill today…in my purse. The day will come when that 50 bucks will mean that a soldier can get home…that a person can have warm boots or gloves. Keeping it tucked away is comforting to me in the hopes that someday it may bring comfort to someone else.

    Best to you all and keep with love…not from guilt!

  8. says

    I’m on the side of love not judgment. I have no problem giving someone who asks for it a bit of spare change from my pocket because it is a gesture of kindness, not because it’s going to solve all their problems. That’s not why I give. I give freely and they are free to do what they like with that money.

  9. Betsy says

    You know what-you have changed my mind. I will give freely of the change in my purse when I am able to and it will be given without judgement. Thank you for this lovely post.

  10. says

    My ex-MIL taught me a kindness when I was 21, going to NYC with her to take in some free museums and churches. I was broke, so we brown-bagged our lunches. While we made sandwiches, she said, “let’s make a few extra.” I didn’t know why, but when we finally sat down to eat our lunch, a guy came up and asked if we had $100 to give him. We said no, and then my MIL said, “but we have sandwiches. Would you like one?” Even better, she gave him a choice what kind he could have. That taught me so much about the real “thing” I could give to those less fortunate than me: dignity. I don’t go to NYC much anymore, but I try to have lots of small bills in my pockets, and if I can bring food, I do. I don’t care what the $ is used for. In the winter, I sometimes pack extra gloves or socks in my bag, too. I’ve never had to live outside, but I know it is a tough life. I have so many stories of encounters with homeless people that I could tell, but they all end with my learning a little more about striving to live gracefully.

    Thanks for this post, reminding us all to live in kindness. xx

    • emily says

      this is the perfect response i was hoping to encounter! to keep others in mind even when they are out of sight is fully grasping the reality of the situation.
      i always keep granola bars and (usually) extra fruit with me to give away. when it is hot, if someone asks for something, i usually hand over my water too. good about socks and gloves in the winter.
      as far as giving freely, if my friends ask for something of mine, i usually hand it over willingly (unless it is new, really expensive, or has sentimental value). if i know it will make them happy, it’s good enough for me.

  11. says

    Wow…I’m really shocked at the opinion of “panhandlers”…especially during these economic times. We give every month, as much as we can and even to the homeless. I agree with you that it is not our place to judge…giving to us means “no strings attached”. If you can’t give that way then you are doing it for selfish reasons…which can be as insigniciant as you feeling guilty for something you spent alot of money on and even if you aren’t/can’t/don’t use it…you want to give it to someone whom you think should handle better than you ever did. I know…because I’ve been there…it’s not human nature…it’s a learned behavior and we can unlearn it 😉

  12. says

    Love, love, love this mini-mission! I get funny looks sometime when I give something, but what the heck… not up to me to decide what they are going to do with it… just feels fantastic to (for maybe just a moment) give them a reason to smile. I consider myself broke at the best of the times, but I’ve never had to resort to putting my hand out to a total stranger, I’m pretty darn lucky!

    Just today I bought a bag of green mangoes from a guy, sure didn’t need or want them, there are at least five trees on the property where I live, with mangoes at the same stage of ripeness (he might have picked them from my trees.) So what? He smiled because of my actions… good enough for me:-)

    • Susan says

      Wow….the thought of ripe mangoes on a tree is a lovely image as it snows sideways here in northwestern Montana! How I’d love to sink my teeth into one right now!

      • says

        Mangoes on Roatan are like zucchini up North… love ’em but when in season, you have so many you can’t give them away! I’m not complaining but there is only so much room in the freezer and a steady diet of mango bread, muffins, smoothies, pancakes, etc. starts to wear you down :-)and it definitely mango season on Roatan.

  13. Kerry Mohondro says

    Yes, I give freely. I learned a long time ago that giving to others is a lot more rewarding than receiving. I give to panhandlers without any real concern for their motivation for panhandling; it just feeds my soul to live a generous life. Often people will chastise me and launch into a long list why I shouldn’t be so generous but it has yet to impact my behavior or the choices I make for myself. We never know the mark we leave on the people around us as a result of our behavior and our choices, and that is the true motivator for me.

  14. Justin says

    The question of giving money to panhandlers is a bad one. Most panhandlers do it for a living because they are too lazy to sell oranges by the freeway and you would be surprised what they “earn.” I refuse to give money to the person standing on the corner with a sign. Try to offer one of these people work or buy them the food they say they need. They get angry. Perhaps my part of the US is different, but it has been this way everywhere I have lived.

    I do give money to strangers who ask me for it in a parking lot, buy extra food at the grocery store and give freely all year long.

  15. Starr says

    I had a guy ask me for money to support him on an AIDS walk that’s next weekend. Honestly, I’m not sure he was telling me the truth or not, but I decided it didn’t matter. I gave him 20 bucks. I’m blessed enough to not have to be that creative when coming up with money-making schemes, and if he’s really going to be walking for charity, even better!

  16. Min says

    I believe that God rewards a generous heart and that he doesn’t take points off for not doing a background check.

  17. says

    My blogging journey has inspired me to give more often, not just at Christmas. I’ve found a giving activity that my kids & I can do each month to sustain our giving year round. To help us share what we have instead of focusing on what we don’t have. We’re half way through the giving project – I’ll let you know how it turns out!

  18. says

    I carry granola bars and small fruits. I run into a few panhandlers with regularity, and they now know I rarely have money, but I might have something in my bag of tricks.
    I’ve carried clean socks, gloves, and bandanas, all from thrifts, but well washed.
    Usually, these are helpful items.