I feel bad.
I was at Box Hill Central earlier, with my daughter in her pram, getting some Subway at about 4pm, because I hadn't eaten since breakfast. A young woman or girl (I'd guess about 15 or so, but I'm bad at judging age) approached me and asked me if I had a spare $2. My hand was reaching for my wallet as I looked her up and down. I thought she didn't look or sound like she was in need, and said no. My response happened over maybe 2 seconds.
That might seem reasonable to some, but not to me.
After I said no, I turned back to the woman who was preparing my sub. My reaction was already niggling at me, and I reached into my wallet to get a spare $2 out. I looked around, but couldn't see the girl. When my sub was ready, instead of taking it back home, I spent a couple of minutes looking around for the girl, but couldn't see her, so I sat down to eat, looking out for her the whole time, a $2 coin sitting on my table in case she showed up. I finished eating and spent the next 15 minutes or so walking around looking for her, but I guess she was gone.
Maybe it's because things were winding up in the food court, and she just happened to approach me looking for one more score before heading off. I don't know, and I don't care. What I do know, is that the average person that asks strangers for money, probably really needs it, and it doesn't happen often enough for me to justify saying no on the grounds that it would materially affect my economic situation.
I met Peter C. Hayward, during his experimental month of being homeless in Feb 2010. Despite the fact that he was only homeless for the month in order to find out what it was like, and he had various safety nets, I was prompted to rethink my perspective that there is no good reason in Australia for a person to be homeless, considering the various social security programs we have.
Since then, if someone has asked, I've given them $2. I don't care what it's for. If they want it for food or shelter, that's great. If they want it for drugs or booze, well better they get it from me than steal it from someone else. If a person asked me for food instead of money, I would probably, and have on occasion in the past, spend more than $2 on food for them, as at least then I know it is helping them. I don't give to Big Issue sellers, not because I don't think they deserve it, but because their slogan is "Working, not Begging" and I wouldn't want to insult them by implying that their work isn't good enough. I've even made sure since then that I always have extra $2 coins just in case. I figure that it needs to be an amount low enough that I won't be crippled, but an amount high enough that something can actually be bought with it, and for now, $2 seems like a good amount.
I have made a point out of not judging the people who ask, and I have been reading through a lot of We are the 99 Percent, which you should all read, and it's for these reasons that I feel bad that despite my intentionally wanting to help people out this way, and someone asking for exactly what I normally give, I rejected the person.
If you are the girl who asked me for $2 at Box Hill earlier today, let me know, and I'll pay up. For anyone else, share this on social media and we'll see if we can find the girl.