I Told Her No

I’ve noticed that I am often the target. Others seem to zoom in on me as someone to exploit. I’ve noticed when I am out on the sidewalk, on my bike, in a store, that others seem to feel free to come up to me, and not others around me, to try to panhandle money.

I’ve known people who are perfectly willing to give out a few dollars to others who ask for it. I believe that anyone has the right to do with their money as they want, even to give money to panhandlers and to encourage that behavior. I’ve done it myself many, many times. I’ve donated money to the American Red Cross and I volunteered for years at the local chapter as well as the nearest food shelf. I’ve donated over twenty bags of clothes and household goods to the food shelf over the years as well.

I was even told once that I was being heartless and unfeeling not to give money to strangers in the street. That was wrong of him to say that to me. It is my right to spend and/or donate my hard earned money how I choose to do so. He was wrong to look at me and see a heartless and unfeeling person. It was even more wrong of this guy to say that to me when I was nineteen. I knew right then, that this is a guy and I could never have anything between us, not even a friendship, and we didn’t become friends.

Unfortunately this too has happened much too often in my life; people who barely have met me judging and evaluating me and feeling free to express those negative thoughts as though they were fact. Well let me just say, these kinds of people are not in my life and none of them are loved by me. I will try not to judge them, but just to say that we were bad fits and that is okay to understand and to walk away from, hopefully as quickly as possible.

Moving into the inner city again has given me a lot of opportunities to observe, interact, and deal with this, ever single day! Every time I take a bus there magically appears someone who tries to get on the bus for free, or to get someone on the bus to give them bus fare so that they can get home. I myself have paid more than a few people’s rides and I have seen others do it as well. I decided not to do it anymore.

First I have to say I have never left home without enough money to get back home, by bus or whatever method I am planning on using. I am guessing that they haven’t either. And the one time when someone stole my wallet, I was about ten miles from home with my bicycle and since my bus pass had been in my wallet, I had to bike home instead of flipping my bike onto the bike rack on the front of one of our local buses. I don’t ask people or drivers for money or a free ride. I pay my way.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about panhandling for money and the right to say no. I’ve been manipulated into feeling guilty and a sense of obligation to strangers by the things they say and do. I know this is their profession and I have to say that they are quite good at their jobs. I’ve even had people say explicitly that I cannot claim to not have any money, since I obviously have a bag of things I have recently purchased at the store. Again what money or monies I may or may not have are mine and mine alone, they are not their monies. I do not tell them how to spend or not spend their money. I do not infringe upon their legal right to go out in public and live their lives, paying their own way through the day. But I am not willing to pay for their day either.

Realistically I don’t have the spare money to give to others and when I do I am depriving myself of the money that I need to get through the day, week, or month. Being on a small disability income does not give me a lot of money to throw around, for myself or for those that I love.

If strangers get my money I don’t get to buy a thing or two for one of my great nieces or my great nephew, at a great discount price, as a nice little gift surprise for them. That’s not right. Those that I love should be getting the little gifts that give me joy to give them. Speaking entirely selfishly, giving to strangers in the streets is joyless, makes me feel used and lied to, and frustrates me and has actually lowered my self-esteem.

So a woman followed me from the sidewalk into a store to ask for a “favor.”

I told her no.

She stared at me, with an amazed look on her face. And then I repeated no and stood there, staring at her. She walked off, looking like I was a big disappointment to her. Good.

Working on enforcing my boundaries is good for me. I won’t be responsible for her low opinion of me, nor will I validate it. What I do with my money is my business. I don’t owe her or anyone else on the street or the bus the money that I have with me. No.