I did something today I’ve never done before. A man — 30s? 40s? — was sitting on the corner on a black plastic crate, asking for money. I passed by on my way to the grocery store. No money in my pockets, so nothing to give.
In the store, I bought bottles of juice, a few small yogurt containers, a package of carrots, and a box of little yellow tomatoes, and pocketed 42 cents in change. As I left the store, I thought I would give the change to the man on the corner (if he was still there; often the begging people move on). But 42 cents seemed piddling. What if I gave him some of the food I just bought? A yogurt? I didn’t know whether he was a yogurt eater. I could give him the tomatoes.
He was still sitting on the crate on the corner, asking for change. I gave him the coins, and asked, “Do you want some tomatoes?” He looked puzzled at the package I handed him; they were yellow, not the usual color of a tomato.
“No, yellow tomatoes.” And I moved on.
I’ve never given food to a person begging on the street, thinking, what if it’s food they don’t like, what if it’s something they’re allergic to and they get sick. Maybe he’ll sell the tomatoes to get what he really wants, cash. I don’t know. I’m not sure I want to know.