I got ice cream with a friend today and gave a homeless man $2.
He’d apparently wanted to buy a hot dog for himself, so I figured I might as well help.
It raises an interesting ethical dilemma for me — one that I’ve struggled to reconcile throughout the years: should you give money to a homeless person when you come across them in any given city?
Or do you politely decline and keep your loose change for whatever your next purchase may be?
I suppose it’d be best to be courteous and generous, but you can’t possibly give every homeless person money out of your pocket. There is a limit to how much you can give.
And just saying “homeless person” seems like it puts a label on someone as being unworthy of your attention simply because they don’t have a roof over their heads.
As someone who ideally views others on deontological terms (don’t treat people simply as a means to an end but rather as ends in themselves, as Kant would say), I don’t know what the right thing to do in these cases is.
Some people say giving money doesn’t help, and that that money may be used to fuel destructive drinking or other drug habits.
But I do try to believe in the better parts of human nature.
I gave him the benefit of the doubt in hoping that he’d put my $2 to good use.
And part of me wonders again — would I have done the same if he’d approached me while I was sitting by myself? Did I simply give him money in front of my friend because I wanted to appear like a good person?
Overanalyzing even my own motives is something I tend to do, just to make sure I retain the best intentions.
But sometimes bad things happen when people do things out of good intent.
That’s certainly true in cases of volunteerism, when well-meaning people who aren’t trained for the job volunteer to help those in need when they may not be the best at doing whatever it is they must do. One example that comes to mind is Habitat For Humanity — one of my friends had condemned it as being something that was more harm than help, by asking untrained volunteers to try and build a house for someone to live in. Their efforts could produce something sub-par that’d require a lot of renovation and repair years down the road.
It’s scenarios like this for which there are no easy answers.
But I’ll choose to bet on the better part of human nature in this case and pray he got the hot dog he needed.
I’ll get back to reading a new book called The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined soon.
Also, my friend today asked me if I believed in souls.
I told her I did.
I do believe we’re something more than our corporeal form. We have more drives beyond the ones for food, water, and sex. We’re designed for so much more, including meaning, purpose, and mastery.
And just because you die eventually doesn’t mean your soul completely leaves the world.
You live on in the minds and thoughts of others.
You’re only truly dead when you’re forgotten, in my opinion.
Countless writers and composers and artists have lived on through their work.
Art and culture are inherited by each generation, testaments to a past that we no longer have the ability to gain full access to.
As Steven Pinker quoted from L. P. Hartley in The Better Angels of Our Nature, “The past is a foreign country.”
But it’s also one that’s been keen on repeating itself. People today have often made the same mistakes that people back then did, and history’s knack of repeating itself is simply uncanny.
Take it from me.
Trial #2 was a failure. I wasn’t able to get up and get my ass over to the park for a solid workout.
Instead, I slept in until 9 and jogged a little to try and make up for my lost time.
It didn’t work because by that time, it’d already gotten too hot for me to exercise.
I’m gonna get back to my book — it’s absolutely fascinating to read about the darker and lighter sides of human nature. (And the grayer in-betweens, too.)
And try to brainstorm more ways to force myself to wake up early and run. .__.’