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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Sunday, April 09, 2006
 
Home of the Homeless
Friday morning I went to a Starbucks near my office in Santa Monica. Outside, at one of the tables, sat a homeless man. His look was straight out of Central Casting: fingerless gloves, tattered jacket, scraggly wool cap, filthy skin, large sores on his hands and face. One detail was different, however.

He had a laptop.

When I asked him if he had wireless Internet access, he said "yes" in a way that sounded more like, "Of course, you idiot, this is the 21st century." And then his cell phone went off and, well, he had to take the call.

I wish I were making this up.
Comments:
So maybe he isn't homeless. Maybe he just into dressing in grunge.
 
That's like my story from back at Temple (University, not religious place). There was a lady who used to beg for quarters next to the subway stop. I kinda felt bad for her, but was, myself, just barely making ends meet while living in the nastiest regions of the city.

Then one day, I was leaving later than usual - after most of the rush hour crowds had gone. And I watched her get in her car and drive home.

(*)>
 
That's incredible. And sad.
 
In the aggregate, poor people spend millions (billions?) of dollars more than they make each year. Obviously there is a lot of unreported income going on.

Of course your homeless man may not be homeless at all, maybe he's mentally ill and lives somewhere but likes to hang out at Starbuck's.
 
When I finished college, I was living in a small, little dive in Brentwood, off San Vicente, around the corner from the VA cementary.

Anyway, there was this homeless guy who kinda, sorta lived in the bushes surrounding my apartment complex.

When I moved to attend law school, I actually had to clean the place, and in the process, collected all the loose change in the nooks and crannies of this 400 sq. foot dive.

I put all the coins in a sandwhich baggie, and, on my way out, presented it to the homeless guy, whose face lit up like a Christmas tree, he was so delighted.

A few hours later, I returned to my pad for a final inspection, and saw him sprawled out in our driveway, with one of those big, Ernest & Julio gallon jug o' wines. He seemed peaceful, in his drunken stupor.

But, it made me rethink whether I had done an objectively genuine nice deed, (giving charity) or was merely trying to assuage my own liberal guilt at the time.

Still don't know the answer.

True story, though. No embellishment.
 
I once read about about a guy who had OCD -- and he was a medical student. He had the kind where you have to keep your apartment absolutely perfect, cleaning and cleaning all the time. This was very exhausting. So he finally got his apartment exactly perfect one day -- and spent the rest of the year living on a park bench with his textbooks so he could study without having to clean. This story was in a book about OCD but I don't remember the name.
 
Toby: You'll have to trust me when I tell you that neither Bean nor any of his friends have OCD.
 
Our shul hands out grocery store gift certificates instead of money for that reason.

That is a weird story!
 
Legal Eagle: If you have a moment, teach Ezer the lesson in economics you taught me over a decade ago that relates directly to the grocery store gift certificates -- all funds are fungible.
 
Our shul hands out grocery store gift certificates instead of money for that reason.

That's noble, but, What's the difference if they buy jugs 'o wine with grocery store certificates rather than loose change?
 
In my state you can't buy wine in the grocery store. Or Beer. Or even cooking wine. And you can't use a "Tops" gift card anywhere but "Tops". But I guess they could trade it for cash, and then buy liquor. But hey, we tried.
 
the other point that Legal Eagle made to me a decade ago is that say they scraped $5 together and were going to use it for food, since that's all they've got. Now they can get the food with the gift certificate which frees up the cash for adult beverages. Which is not to say that you shouldn't give them gift certificates, it's just to say that you have to accept that your charity will buy whatever they value, not what you want it to go for.
 
Isn't that how it is, though? You give with the best of intentions and then you let it go. We can't control everything in this life, we just do what we think is right and hope for the best. We don't give thoughtlessly, and you hope that you can influence each individual that walks through your door to use your gift in the most productive way. And then you let it go and the free will of the person takes over. I still think it is better than cash or turning them away.
 
The grocery store gift certificate is definitely better than turning someone away. That is a noble gesture of your shul, EK.
 
You give with the best of intentions and then you let it go.

Well, what if acting with the best of intentions actually hurts the fellow, not helps him?

I guess I wasn't clear with my funny little story.

Afterwards, seeing the poor fellow drunk, I wondered whether I had inadvertantly added to the poor fellow's already overworked liver and social pathology.

We can't control everything in this life, we just do what we think is right and hope for the best.

Often, true. But, again, a little soft. The missing element is whether you have hurt, rather than helped.

I still think it is better than cash or turning them away.

Perhaps a smidgen better than cash, but it may be worse than turning away. That's the cosmic dilemna -- relying on good intentions, while ignoring potentially unpleasant, unintended consequences.
 
You know what they say.

If you give a man a sandwich you feed him for a day, but if you teach a man to sandwich...

No. Wait. That's not right. I think it was with fish.
 
Good lord people, you act like we are destroying mankind. we can't teach everyone to fish (or IS it sandwich?), and I just don't believe we are hurting the 10 or 12 people that come through our door each year by giving them a grocery store gift certificate. geez. lighten up.

Now our free cigarette program, maybe . . .
 
EK: You might do more good if you gave tuition vouchers to hard-working doctors to send their kids to day school. Think about it.
 
I'd like to teach the world to sandwich
With perfect condiments
I'd like to give a homeless guy
A friendly compliment

That's the song I sing...
 
E.K. you are brave to keep coming back and trying to make your point.
I think that you should teach a class for the homeless on how to make fish sandwiches ..wouldn't that just about cover it all?
 
I am sooooo jealous of that man.
Wanna know why? 'Cause I don't even own a laptop!

He might've actually not been homeless, just extremely eccentric in his appearance, to put it nicely. He could be a gazillionaire... a la Howard Hughes.
 
B&C: Now THERE'S an idea; what about hard working rabbis? I hear some communities are giving vouchers to everyone who doesn't want to send their kids to the local public school (OR: Why Can't Other People Pay for My Stuff Part III).

Crusin-mom: Nah, I'm a thrill junkie. Besides, these guys are kinda funny. Especially Bean. He has clever songs. And this sure beats trying to get my 2 year old nudist to keep her diaper on (or at least use the toilet). I'm running out of "Nature's Miracle" (enzyme pet cleaner, if you get my drift). Bean, how about "Smells Like Toddler Pee Pee"

Thanks folks, I'm here all night . . .

;-)
 
I thought rabbis didn't have to pay day school tuition. Or taxes.
 
...and I just don't believe we are hurting the 10 or 12 people that come through our door each year by giving them a grocery store gift certificate. geez. lighten up.

Hah! Duly lightened:) But multiply the 10-12 by, say, a few hundred thousand, and you have a fuller picture of what's happening in America, particularly in the inner cities.

That's all folks!!!
 
Um, are you kidding? Where we live, and the school we send our children to, we pay full tuition. no rabbi discounts. And we sure as hell pay taxes. We have what is called "parsonage" which means that the amount of our monthly mortgage payments is subtracted from the amount of our taxable income, thereby reducing the amount of our taxable income. which is certainly nice, especially since we are not in the most lucrative profession or position. but no free ride. we are also, in most states, considered "independent contractors" which means we pay that tax as well (as opposed to W-2 employees. it's complicated; i don't really understand it myself. this is why we have an accountant). maybe rabbis in other communities have their kids' tuition paid; that is certainly a perk. although i believe every family should contribute something. would it be nice to have a tuition break? absolutely; especially since my husband and myself are both involved in the school as more than just parents, and as I mentioned we are not lotto winners. but i just don't believe it should be handed to us. we both feel that we have a responsibility to support our children's school as much as we can. if we could do more, we would.
 
Actually, I believe that a winning lottery ticket should be handed to me.

Heck, I'd even shell out one dollar for it.
 
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