In this blog I would like to address a question I am commonly asked which is, "What do I do if someone approaches me for money in the street? Do I, or do I not give them money?" As usual with most self defense questions I am asked, my answer is either "Maybe" or "It Depends" on the scenario and the variables. See most people's first response to me either verbally or throught their body language particularly their faces is one of questioning how safe it is. Interesting how people sadly jump to the conclusion that if someone looks homeless or a little unkempt that they must be dangerous or risky to deal with. I look at it more from the perspective that all of us are not so far from being in the same situation and to judge without knowledge is not healthy as hopefully kind caring human beings. We all make decisions in our lives that can take us in many directions and some make decisions that through poor judgement or just bad luck could have us in similar circumstances. Does that answer the question? No, of course not, but please never jump to conclusions or judgement without a little empathy or questioning circumstances many might have experienced.
I will often ask a group of students if they might want to give some money to someone who may appear to really need it or may be having some bad luck? It is nice to see that most want to, but just do not know how or when they might do that. Again for me it comes down to one's intuition at any one time. Someone may approach you very kindly keeping distance and politely asking you, at which point you can make your own decision if you want to or not? Now many may jump to say that it could be a setup for escalation. Yes, it could be as in any approach from someone whether it is someone asking for money, the time, or directions. This is why as always keeping your awareness and alertness of where you are, time of day, who else is around are important factors to consider. If your intution tells you things are not safe, quickly exit the scenario and do not question it even if the person tries to make you feel guilty for not helping them. Or you may give them the money, they thank you and you move on. I can't tell you to give or not give, just trust your gut.
If they approach you aggressively this may be a bit more obvious as far as your intution kicking in, but you still might decide to give them something with the thought that they will move on. They may or they may not. I have heard stories and experienced myself people using this aggressive tactic knowing that the majority of people will give money out of fear and/or appearing rude. Then on occasion you may help and give money and they pressure you even more which to me is not accpetable and a sign someone is trying to now take advantage of your kindness. In this case the goal should be to exit or excape the scenario asap.
In the end it is a personal decision with no definite answer. All I can definitely say is never compromise your safety for anyone regardless of the scenario. But at the same time, maybe have a bit of empathy for how someone might end up in a scenario like this.
As always, please feel free to agree, disagree, or offer additional thoughts.