Last Friday on my way home from work, I stopped by the mini-mart to grab a couple items. As I was leaving and heading to my car, a woman approached me—from her tattered red t-shirt and toiled skin, I figured she was homeless. In a quavering voice, she asked if I could give her some cash to purchase a loaf of bread. As she came closer, I noticed she was slightly trembling and had severely cracked lips. She had bloodshot eyes surrounded by jaded crow’s feet; her face creased like vellum. Right off the bat, I could tell she was on some kind of substance abuse.

I hesitated to give her cash in hand because I knew there was a high possibility she’d use it to satisfy her addiction rather than get herself something to eat.

“Sure, I’ll go back inside and get you a loaf of bread,” I said in a matter-of-fact tone.

She looked at me, a bit disappointed that I wasn’t going to give her cash, “I prefer the bread at the bakery,” she said, as she pointed a few buildings down the street to the bakery shop, “they last longer.”

That was true—she might have been homeless but she sure did know good bread. “Okay, I’ll get you that one instead. Can you meet me over there to collect it?”  

She nodded and said thanks.

As I was getting into my car to head there, I noticed she was walking in the opposite direction, away from the bakery that she pointed out. I thought maybe she was going to meet someone for a second and come back. I sat in my car and waited while looking questionably at her in the rear view mirror. She kept walking steadily, not looking back. Shortly after, the image of her became faint and she disappeared into the distance.

I exhaled in distress and drove home.

Obviously she used the ‘hunger card’ to coax her way into getting some cash for ‘you know what’—well at least she tried to.  Still, on my entire drive home I kept wondering: should I have given her the cash?

What would you have done?

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Thank you for reading.

Smile! Life is better when you’re laughing

Love, Candace

80 Replies to “An Act of Kindness Gone Wrong”

  1. I believe you did the right thing. Your act was still kind. You may not have done the “nice” thing, but your kindness was in not enabling the woman’s habit.

  2. I would have given her the money. I cannot control what others do. What she does with it after I give it to her is out of my hands and I do not consider that enabling. We can only control ourselves.

    1. You’re right–we definitely cannot control what others do and can only control ourselves. I respect your perspective. The younger me would’ve given her the cash without much thought, but now, I find it somewhat enabling.

      1. The younger me would not have given the money. The me who is about to turn 53 would give the money. I suppose my perspective now is that if I think I would be enabling her, then I am judging her.

        1. Exactly. Michelle Schill. The woman is an adult and is free to do whatever she wants with the buck I give her. Not giving her money isn’t going to stop any “evil” in the world. Giving is always kind when it’s without judgement.


  3. You did the right thing! You had the courage and compassion to give her what she was asking for, it was she that had ulterior motives. As easily as she made up a story to try to trick someone into satisfying a fix, she could have simply asked for money and you may not have ever known her true intent.
    Don’t be hard on yourself. While you didn’t give her money, that really isn’t what she “needed”. You wouldn’t give a drunk a drink and this is no different. Your heart and intentions were pure and if you encounter her or someone else in a similar situation, you could change your tactic to give something of real value to them.

    1. Thanks Jake. I really did not want to enable her and contribute to something that was clearly doing her more harm than help. Who knew what effects me giving her some cash might have had. You’re right, it was not what she “needed”. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  4. I recall a fellow I met years ago. Living in New York City, he was often accosted by people asking for money. He said that he came upon a solution that worked for him. He left his apartment with a dollar in his pocket and the first person who asked for it, got it. He said it wasn’t up to him to judge how it was spent. It was up to him to be charitable to others.

    1. Thanks for sharing that lovely story Tim. That’s a really kind charitable practice to have. And you’re right, we really can’t control what people do with the money, but it was so obvious that she wanted a fix–I really didn’t want to enable it.

      I guess for me, it’s not just about giving money for the sake of charity, I prefer give in support of a cause; and those causes don’t include things that are self-destructing to others.

      Thank you so much for your valuable contribution 🙂

  5. Candace, this is awesome how you handled the matter. We do the exact thing. It really weeds out the people that use the “I’m homeless” scam from those legitimately in need. We do not like imposters. 39 years in social work has taught me techniques like yours that are important. We also smile at the folks that stand outside strip malls for handouts and there are numerous help wanted signs behind them.

    1. That’s exactly how I think Audrey/Tom.

      I always try to do what I can to help others in need. But there’s a difference in “neediness”–whether you’re unable to help yourself, or whether you just don’t want to help yourself. Like you said, there are people standing outside stores who are asking for cash, when there’s a “help wanted” sign behind them.

      Maybe I’m being to hard on them because I don’t know their story, but if I have one dollar to give, I just prefer give it to the person who really needs it.

      1. Great points. There are numbers of times we will invite that person sporting a sign of “I’m homeless” to the corner eatery and buy them a meal and talk with them. Amazing the ones that won’t go. You have great discernment.

        1. Wow.. how does that go? I’m always curious to hear such stories, like how they ended up there, what they need to get back on their feet and what’s holding them back from getting it. It would be interesting to know their side.

  6. I think you did the right thing by refusing her cash and trying to help her get bread. You probably saved her from taking another hit, as you mentioned. Hopefully the lady will have realized herself that it was wrong to walk away like that. Your act of kindness was not in vain, I assure you. 🙂

  7. Great post babe, loved hearing this story. Sadly it seems this is becoming a much more frequent occurrence. It seems that these people are using any and all excuse to try to get us to spare them some change to fuel whatever ill activities they are up to.
    You did the right thing!

  8. It is possible she has idea you really would have met her at the other bakery. I would like to see food trucks (restaurants on wheels) have gift cards so street people can be given fries, a salad or a sandwich instead of cash; plus it easy for them to validate.

  9. I think you made a thoughtful and kind choice. She asked you for money for bread and you made clear to her you were willing to buy that for her. You are then not responsible for her response in not accepting that. You were more than willing to help her, which is very kind and compassionate, but were also wise to identify an ulterior motive for the money. Although she will have been unhappy at the time you really had her best interests at heart. I personally think you did the most you could have done in that situation.

  10. I agree with the choice you made. It’s your right to decide how you want to give aid. While the thought process may appear judgemental to a shortsighted person, you are entirely in the right to make the decision you. At least you were willing to help.

    1. I agree. It’s good to give, but at the same time we need to be mindful of how we do it. Sometimes we can be causing more harm than good. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your valuable thoughts 🙂

  11. I think you made the right choice. It’s unfortunate that the individual was not able to recognize the gift of food you were offering while she was caught up in her craving for drugs or alcohol. I think when we extend kindness to anyone, we also need to make sure that doing so doesn’t violate our own values and judgment. It isn’t always easy!

  12. It was the right thing. Those who are in real need will never debate what they should get. I always offer to buy them something instead of givin cash. That was you know who are the real misfortunate. Its not that beggers are ln’t chooser but much rather beggers SHOULDN’T be choosers …. nice piece Camz

    Carpz 😘

  13. Hello Candace,
    A captivating post and comment thread too.
    I understand your confusion about the result of your situation but after being advised here in Melbourne, I would be doing the same thing you offered to do. I appreciate the comments about handing over the money and what someone does with it is out of our hands. A different perspective for me to read too.
    Don’t feel bad for another second as your heart was in the right place and you were even prepared to go out of your way to buy the loaf she preferred. That’s kind.
    Thank you for a thought provoking post Candace 💐💐

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts Di. This post sure did stir up a lot of comments.
      I do enjoy the different perspectives and stories from my readers—it makes blogging fun and such a learning avenue.
      Thanks for reading and you are most welcome 🙂

      1. You’re very welcome Candace. There is nothing worse than thinking we did the wrong thing when we had good intentions. Talking about it and knowing we are not alone always helps me through something so I hope you felt that too from all the comments.
        Until soon,
        Best wishes from Di 💐💐✨

  14. I thought I was smart by picking up McDonald’s $5.00 gift cards to give out when I am approached by transients looking for money for food until I discovered that they were selling them for $3.00. I really don’t know what the answer is to addiction and I see too many people suffering from it. It breaks my heart to say no to them, but I don’t want to be an enabler either. I know that for those who are just down and out there are more programs and food sources available than you can shake a stick at.

    1. Wow… it is quite a dilemma when you want to help but you know your assistance will somehow be in vain. It’s very hard saying no, but we can’t just give for our peace of mind when we might actually be causing more harm.

      It’s like giving excessive candy to your child just because you feel sorry for him/her, while knowing that it’s not good for their health. We have to give with care.

      Thanks so much for sharing your story.

  15. For me, giving is about me, not about the person and their good or ill intentions. Do I want to be a giving person? Yes. Do I need to account for every cent to make sure it is being used well? No. It is none of my business what the money will be used for. She may have needed something else that would be too embarrassing to ask for, you really don’t know. Also, buying a drunk a drink can sometimes save their lives.

    1. Very interesting perspective Mary. I respect your way of giving. I agree that there could have been a slight possibility she wanted something else and was perhaps too embarrassed to ask for it, however, in this specific instance it was quite obvious what she wanted the cash for. There may be instances where you really can’t tell–I’ve encountered those before and I do give the cash.

      Despite all, for me, giving is not about me. Giving is not for my own satisfaction or peace of mind. I give to someone for the benefit of the person, and if there’s a high possibility my giving may be harming them, I will act accordingly.

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts 🙂

      1. Integrity – be true to thine own self. Although I agree with you Candace in “Giving is not for my own satisfaction or peace of mind. I give to someone for the benefit of the person, and if there’s a high possibility my giving may be harming them, I will act accordingly.” I am not an enabler – I try to save the world, one person at a time.

  16. Hi Candace – I believe your heart was in the right place and you did the right thing. I am approached quite often and asked for money for food, and that is what I get them. Most of them appreciate it. Others turn and walk away…

  17. I had somewhat of a similar experience…. I actually had food I bought for lunch and was heading back to the office to eat when this “award winning actor” pretty much approached me in the same manner you were and claimed to have not eaten for days and just wanted some spare cash to get a bite to eat. I don’t usually give homeless people money for the very same reason you did not, but he was so genuine in his request I was willing to give him my meal and just skip lunch. To my shock and disgust, his response was ”he will prefer the cash instead”! Well I came back to reality immediately then an there, and went on my merry way. I think you did the right thing, you were alot more willing than I was, lol.

    1. Wow.. Clearly food was the last thing he wanted. There were times when people asked me for food and I gave them what I had in hand and they humbly accepted. But there are the few who as you said.. are award winning actors. Lol

  18. I had a similar instance a few years ago. A man approached me and asked me for some money to get a coffee. As luck would have it, I had a gift certificate good for a coffee at a shop a short distance away. When I offered it, he said that he would “rather have a hamburger.”
    I asked why he told me that he wanted money for coffee when he apparently wanted a hamburger. He walked away.
    I can’t willingly support giving money to someone with a substance abuse problem knowing that they are going to use it to get drugs. I want to be helpful, but I won’t help someone into oblivion.
    I think you did the right thing.

    1. Exactly. It’s kind of careless to give someone cash when you’re most certain they’re going to use it to support their addiction. Refusing to give them the cash is not gonna stop them from doing it, but atleast it’s no t encouraging it more.

  19. I think you did the right thing. This recently happened to my brother at a gas station. A man asked him for money to by orange juice, so my brother took a juice from the refrigerator, bought it at the counter, and then gave it to the man instead of giving him the cash, which might have gone towards cigarettes or worse. It’s hard to trust a perfect stranger, so most of the time, it’s safer not to. It’s not worth taking a chance on contributing to someone’s addiction.
    ~ Megan Joy

  20. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to do and every encounter may result with a different outcome, both by you and the person asking for the cash. Wisdom can give us discernment for each. I believe you did a good and nice thing even though the lady refused the bread. If she were really hungry, she would have accepted the gift you offered. I also believe it is good not to contribute to someones downfall with substance abuse. Giving her one more “hit” could have possibly been her last. I wouldn’t want to know I helped with that. We have a responsibility to help mankind not contribute to their downfall. You did what your heart was leading you to do to help and that is never a bad thing. Much love.

  21. I would have handled it the same way. Giving an addict cash isn’t helping them, giving them good does. And that’s what you tried to do. I believe you did the right thing, and how she reacted was her decision.

  22. Hi Candace…in my opinion you did absolutely the right thing. Groggy-eyed or not, I tell anyone asking me for money that I’ll get them some food, and if there’s a shop nearby we go grocery shopping..or they tell me what they want. I did once take a very sorry-looking chap for some pasta. We sat in the restaurant and he said he wanted to go home to the north-east of England and it would cost £38 on the bus. I went completely against my food-only decision and gave him £40. When I got home, I just thought I’d check the bus fare to see if he was telling the truth – and he was. But I spotted him a few weeks later in another part of London. I went up and spoke to him and he said that there was no work up there, so he came back…now, it would be no surprise to anyone that it is easier to find work in London than the north-east. I took that as a lesson – so, I have the same response to anyone asking for money – I just buy them food – then I’m not drawing any conclusions or making any judgement or decision about their lifestyle – I’m just doing what I feel I can do to help.

  23. Candace, you definitely approached it well.
    I remember once I met an elderly woman who was asking for $20 to go for a treatment for her ankle nearby. I asked if I can bring her there and pay for the treatment instead. She refused. I knew what I was getting into. I told her I will give her half of what she asked for and I do not want to see her around the area to hassle others. She can tell I knew and she left the area.
    I will help to the extend that I can and willing to. What she’s doing or what she’s going to do, is not within my control.

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