My kids are always on at me for giving money to folks sitting on the sidewalks of New York City because what if those folks just use the money to buy booze or drugs? But here I am in New York City, and I'm at it again. A legless black man pulls himself through my subway carriage, an armless Hispanic holds up a sign with his stubs, and I am reaching for my wallet. I suppose, if I am honest, what I am doing is easing my own conscience. It weighs heavy on me that I get to come to this city and see the show Hamilton while there are people curled in fetal balls in the subway. My generosity does me more good than it probably does the poor beggar with his dissolving styrofoam cup. I suppose I can't get away from the feeling that there but for the grace of God go I.
The story goes that the author James Joyce was once walking through the university town of Oxford England with some high-minded professor, when they were accosted by a destitute man asking for money.
"What are you going to do with it if I give you some?" Joyce asked.
The homeless man replied that he was going to buy whisky, whereupon Joyce reached into his pocket and handed him a few shillings.
As they walked away, the professor turned to the author and asked what on earth he was thinking to have helped the man towards his next drink.
Joyce answered, "He was an honest man. If he had told me he needed the money for his wife and children, I would have punched him in the nose."