Begging for women


The woman’s hand was shaking, in fact, all of her was shaking, as I gave her a fiver before disappearing to the regional rail on my way to my suburban life.

Usually I only give a dollar, but she seemed to really need the five.

Probably they all could use the five.

One of the shocks in staying in the Bay Area is the huge number of street beggars everywhere, right beside the opulence of the San Francisco elite. As I’m here working on my bootstrapped startup, I let the beggars shock me every day, instead of following my instinct to ignore them.

After a few days of letting them shock me daily, I decided to do an exercise, and one day to give a dollar to every single panhandler who crossed my path.

I didn’t do it out of altruism or out of moral imperative. I did it to remind myself that no matter how much I feel strapped in my bootstrapped startup, I have abundance in my life and I can always afford to help others. I did it to remind myself that there is no problem that is so intractable that I can’t at least do my little part to improve it. I thought, for one day, I will experience the feeling of absolute abundance and gratitude. It will make me a happier person, and change my self-perception, I thought.

The exercise went so well that I kept doing it and plan to keep doing it for at least as long as I’m here. It went so well, that I gave that woman a fiver. In fact, she was the first woman I gave any money to.

I’m attending Women 2.0, where we ask the question of where the women in tech are. Oddly enough, it turns out there are very few women panhandlers on the street. It’s something to ponder, though a bit off-topic for this post, despite the headline.

So what would “success” look like for an experiment in giving money to beggars? YMMV, but this is what happened to me.

  • I feel really good about it. Honestly, it is worth a few extra bucks a day to be able to look myself in the eye and know I’m not a jerk. It makes me feel privileged, and human, and like I’ve touched someone in a real way.
  • On the first day I only gave about $3. In fact, I’ve never given more than $5 a day. I honestly believe that in some Karmic way, by creating a space of abundance, people who are not in that space are moving out of my path.
    Here’s why:
    1. The rule is I don’t go out of my way, cross the street, etc., and if they don’t have a cup or sign or hand available, I don’t go out of my way to give money. It has to be at least nominally apparent that they want a donation, and they have to be in my path.
    2. For some odd reason, fewer beggars seem to cross my path. Several times I have had the experience of seeing someone across the street begging, looking down to pull out my dollar, crossing the street, and finding they are gone by then.
  • The money keeps coming back to me. I mean, seriously odd Karma. I have gotten more magical money than I’ve given away. I mean, talk about weird Karmic stuff — I literally have more money since I started this 2 weeks ago. Here’s how.
    1. The machine on the bus didn’t work so I got a free ride. $2.25
    2. The next day, the person before me overpaid and the machine doesn’t give change. $0.75
    3. When I asked for a day pass at the local gym, the woman at the desk insisted on letting me in on a free pass. $25
    4. The cappuccino bar had already closed the till. Free coffee. $3.25
    5. I found out that the free casual carpool is faster, closer, and easier than the BART. $6.25 a day.
  • I get tons of blessings and gratitude. Maybe they are just homeless beggars, but they thank you in a completely genuine way as you give them a dollar and look them in the eye. Most humans don’t ever thank you for anything in that genuine way. These people wish upon you the Lord’s blessings, a great day, all kinds of great stuff, just for a buck. Man. I got my kid concert tickets and a vacation in London and he didn’t thank me that genuinely. If you believe that words create reality, you should get as many good words from homeless people as you possibly can. These folks are absolutely the most generous people I’ve ever met when it comes to showering you with spoken good blessings.
  • My self-talk has changed . I feel capable, supportive and powerful. Worry over money has evaporated.· I perceive myself as part of the solution rather than part of the problem. I have the experience that my money multiplies itself.

The point of this blog isn’t to tell you what to do. I don’t know if you should try this experiment. It’s up to you.

One thing that I know is that I was raised to think that capitalism works and that people on teh street should just get a job. I think very few of us truly believe that narrative anymore. To do this required my giving up the story that I’m somehow enoucraging this behavior by helping these peole and just suspend my judgment. Maybe suspension of judgement was just one more benefit I got.

What do you think? Am I just being selfish? Are you?

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