I’m going to start by saying that this post is going to be a little different than most. It’s not about productivity, It’s not about entrepreneurship. It’s about people. It’s about the way we treat people. It’s about how we can treat people better and what would happen if we did. And it’s about very, very rich people and very, very poor people. It’s important to note that both groups are people.
This week, Halifax city council began discussing a very important issue. It would appear that people are very concerned about aggressive panhandling on Spring Garden Road, a busy shopping district in the downtown area. It’s an area that I don’t frequent very often as a shopper, but that has nothing to do with the panhandlers. Honestly, I’ve found the people who are NOT asking me for money to be aggressively rude on a number of occasions. This includes both pedestrians and shop attendants. One of the other reasons that I don’t frequent the area as a shopper is that I find most of the shops to be significantly overpriced. From $100 t-shirts to $200 Christmas ornaments, it’s just not my jam. And I’m not judging those businesses. They’ve carved out a market. Great. I’m just not that consumer. But I used to spend a LOT of time on that street, travelling for work.
I’m regularly asked for change from panhandlers on Spring Garden Road. Every block there’s someone else vying for my “charity business”. And I never mind. If I have some change, I don’t typically mind giving some up, although I think our reliance on virtual currency is probably hurting panhandlers. And if I don’t have money I say “no, sorry” or “I don’t have any change.” I make eye contact. I acknowledge that they’re people and I continue on. I don’t get followed, or harassed, or aggressively spoken to. I usually get a “god bless you” or “have a nice day” and I wish them the same. One of the reasons I give money to a couple panhandlers in particular because I’ve always been so pleased with the way they’ve treated me when I HAVEN’T given them money.
Council is looking at a number of measures including convincing people to stop giving panhandlers money all together. And that’s great. Then these people can go back to their day jobs in the offices and stores of Halifax, right? I mean, these panhandlers would be SO happy to not have to stand out in the cold anymore and have people look down on them. This is great news.
Last week my son hit a kid in the face with a block. According to him, that kid hit him first. According to his teacher, that kid accidentally knocked down my son’s block tower so he corked him in the face. I’m inclined to believe the teacher I would encourage councilors fielding complaints from their constituents that they don’t just take everything they’re told at face value. And I would encourage those people interacting with panhandlers, those concerned about how aggressive they’re being, that you treat them like people. Smile. Speak. Respect. I’m encouraged by the words of our mayor, Mike Savage;
“…I have no interest in criminalizing poverty.”