Unless we have an extended conversation with the person to whom we are being charitable, it is indeed arrogant to assume that they’ll be buying alcohol or drugs or something else that might be harmful to their body and or psyche. Perhaps it’s best to simply ask: ‘how can I help you?’ We might be surprised to learn the answer and enlightened about their true needs.
Besides food, shelter and a sense of safety, we all need validation from others. Giving money, instead of making ‘dark’ assumptions about what might be done with that money, offers that social validation.
Sometimes when I’ve given money, in addition to showing gratitude, the person has said something like: I’ll pray for you…WOW.
I especially liked what you said here: “I’ve always wondered how these people can imagine that a starving homeless person would be willing to follow me to a fastfood place.” So true.