I'm the jerk?
Having picked up a few things after work, I had a shopping bag in addition to my usual carrying case. I placed them on the floor, between my feet, since keeping them next to me would make them easier to steal (directly or surreptitiously). This beggar didn't smell or look dirty, and he also approached only me, when the bench's other occupants didn't have packages. So in case he tried to snatch something, I quickly drew my feet together tightly against my bags. It wouldn't guarantee he couldn't pull one away, but at least he'd have to bend down, leaving the back of his neck vulnerable to a downward blow. I take defending my property very seriously.
"Sorry," I replied dryly. Then the little bastard muttered, "Jerk," and walked away. I'm a jerk, though he "rebuked" me as if he were somehow entitled to my money? I retorted, "Get a job!" He may not have heard me, but at least I did my homage to Ted Nugent. Once on Sean Hannity's radio show, he said, "You want a cure for poverty? Get a job!" And he is right. I recently saw a man near the MetLife building, holding up a sign that included, "$20 can feed my family for a week." Then let him get a job, which at minimum wage will net him $20 in only a few hours. Or is it too profitable for him to sponge off others?
There's a verse I was thinking of today, where the Apostle Paul wrote, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Could angels test the character of men from time to time, asking for help? Quite possibly, but I really doubt one of God's angels would call me a "jerk" just for what I said.
This black man appeared to be in his 40s, able-bodied, and capable of an honest day's work. So what's his excuse, white people's racism? Illegal immigrants take the jobs he would do? "Disabled vet"? Well, I don't give handouts anymore, period, whether to beggars in the transit system, the vagrants who hang around where I work, or the couple of women I've seen on Fifth Avenue. Remember the punk who rides the subway claiming "The government doesn't give me enough"? And the other one who was on 54th and Broadway, shaking a cup of coins at pedestrians while munching a burger?
Tonight I did some more shopping. How much food could I buy for those less fortunate with what I spent? A lot, to be sure, but I don't feel selfish or guilty at all. I work damn hard for my pay and will dispose of it by my own desires, not according to some ass who calls me a "jerk" when he should be out there working. But I do believe strongly in helping those less fortunate -- helping them effectively.
Charity in its only true form is done by individuals and not government, proven by the colossal failures of FDR's welfare state, LBJ's failed "war on poverty," and George W. Bush's post-Katrina blunders. There are too many scammers and drunkards, though, and others just plain lazy. How can one tell who needs help the most? Well, I can't, not with my limited time, so instead I give money to the Salvation Army, which has a pretty high comparative advantage in performing charitable services. Also, I don't attend church regularly but try to give generously when I visit one, in the hope that some will make its way into the church's ministry for the poor. That sort of giving, I believe, is ultimately more effective than handing a few dollars to any panhandler who asks.