Skip to content

Charitable giving is easier when it's rewarded with a smile

Deciding who to help isn't always easy, but when the the gesture is appreciative, it's always worth the effort, writes Jill Summerhayes

At some point we all must decide whether to help someone in need. There are numerous charities, individuals, causes that need our support.

Most of us choose one or two and stick with them, but it is a personal decision and usually selected based on our needs. If we know someone who supports that cause or suffers from that condition, like when a family member has cancer, then you might well choose to support the Cancer Society.

I have selected mine and mostly stick to them but do have difficulty when a friend is raising funds for a particular cause and asks for sponsorship.  Sometimes I donate, sometimes not, and if not try not to feel guilty. 

The most difficult decisions for me are how to help the homeless.

Often those individuals who might be sitting outside the grocery store. Some of them are clearly under the influence of drugs, some have obvious and extreme mental difficulty, others have had bad luck, not always a fault of their own, but unexpected circumstances. Loss of a job, a house fire, being thrown out of their home. Deciding whether to help and, if so, who and how is not easy.

My thought process is I have so much compared to them surely, I should share, but will it help or just encourage them to continue to go down the wrong path? 

At one time I carried small change which I would freely give, but now I rarely have change, mostly use a debit card and that does not help them.

Often, I speak to them as I enter the store, explain that I have no change and ask if there is anything I can buy for them. Answers vary greatly.

Sometimes all they want is someone to listen to them,  but I can’t deny some of them do scare me.

Others are friendly and helpful; some carry my groceries to the car and place them in the trunk. My response varies, if I have change, I may select one person to give it to, usually not more than a dollar or two which doesn’t even buy them a coffee these days.

Yesterday on my weekly shopping trip a young attractive, but very thin woman stood outside the grocery store. I said good morning and explained I had no change as I only carried a card, and asked if I could get her anything? She replied, “thank you, I was just hoping to get something to eat, I’m so hungry.” 

“Okay what would you most like?” I asked. She grinned and said “well I love ice cream”. My response of “If you are still here when I return in about half an hour, I’ll have ice cream for you,” brought a smile.

My thoughts as I shopped were, well ice cream might be a treat, but I should also get her something more nutritional. It should be easy to carry, not require cooking or heating. It was an interesting exercise.

I got small slices of cheese, wondered what flavour she might like, whether she had any allergies and if she were no longer there when I had finished would what I had bought be suitable for us at home? Too many questions.

My shopping complete I had a separate bag for her, cheese, granola bars, small packs of apple juice, an orange, and a small tub of ice cream.

She was not there, instead three guys were in her spot. I told them I had promised her some food and describing her asked had they seen her.

"Oh yes, we were with her, but she has just gone inside.”

I didn't know if they were being honest, but I passed them the food bag and told them not to eat her ice-cream.

They were very thankful and as I left, they were gratefully sharing the granola bars, each person happily eating. 

I will probably never know what happened after that, but it didn’t matter. As I packed my groceries into the car it made me feel good and I guess that is what donating all about.

Sharing with those who have less, when they are appreciative, does make us feel good.