The givers dilema

The givers dilema

If you’ve ever discussed the idea of giving to the poor with someone you will inevitably run into the excuse that you shouldn’t give because the recipient will probably just use it for drugs or cigarettes. Before I completely debunk this, lets take a look at the following simple decision matrix.

  Your Decision
Give Money Don’t Give
Real Desire Food, Shelter, Clothing Great choice.
You may have saved a life.
Bad choice.
You have condemned someone to another night of suffering, or worse
Alcohol, Drugs, or Tobacco Oops. You may have supported someones bad habit. They’re no better or worse than before Another good choice, or is it? You haven’t supported their bad habit, but you haven’t helped them either

So, what will it be? Assume that they don’t really need the money, don’t give, and then take a chance that they could go another night without a meal? Or, take the chance and give them the money, realizing that it may support a bad habit, but won’t make their life worse?

The thing is, the whole question (and excuse) is mute when you realize that money isn’t the only thing you can give! Why not just offer to buy the person a meal? Come on, does it really take that long at a fast food joint? I’ve tried this a number of times and 2 out of 3 people have gratefully accepted. If time is really a problem then buy a few food coupons the next time your at the grocery store, or extra transit passes, or clothing gift certificates, or pay phone cards, or even an extra pair of socks. These can’t be used for drugs, alcohol, or tobacco so you can know that they person who takes them, needs them (yes they could potentially sell them, but your really stretching now).

I would really encourage you to offer to take the person out for a meal. Be safe about it, and stay in public places with others around, but don’t just assume the worst. Take the opportunity to talk to the person, ask them a few questions and answer some of theirs. You might find they aren’t that much different than you after all! In the event that the person swears at you and walks off (it happens), just try again. You just might get the chance to save someones life.


  1. Comment by Mike King

    I totally agree. Who are we to judge which people deserve our help and which don’t. Or the help we give them. If they ask, give. Its that simple.

  2. Pingback by The Givers Dilema Update

    […] is just a quick update to the givers dilema post that includes a Powerpoint and PDF version for your […]

  3. Pingback by Should I Give to People in Corrupt Countries?

    […] Really just a simplification/restatement of the Givers Dilema. […]

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

If you want to leave a feedback to this post or to some other user´s comment, simply fill out the form below.