Do Good Recklessly
July 21, 2019 8:44 PM   Subscribe

 
Shit, now I'm weeping at Chaotic Goodness on a Sunday evening.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:58 PM on July 21 [5 favorites]


It's an obvious scam, they're just going to take their free frozen cauliflower and turn around and sell it on the black market for thousands of dollars and then use that money to go on a really nice vacation in Iceland.
posted by aubilenon at 9:14 PM on July 21 [19 favorites]


I participated in that thread! Not close enough to the original post to be included in the linked
imgur image, though. I contributed this word art.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:25 PM on July 21 [8 favorites]


America's Great National Passtime is not getting scammed by fellow humans who need 10 bucks for groceries but getting absolutely ripped the fuck off by lizard people who have 10 million in the bank.
posted by pilot pirx at 9:31 PM on July 21 [53 favorites]


If we had fairer tax and social security systems we would all be the good people in that thread, all of us, all the time.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:56 PM on July 21 [20 favorites]


I was in line behind a woman at the grocery store. Similar story. WIC funds paid for some, card declined on the rest. She started making hard choices about what to leave behind. I smiled an "Excuse me," and handed the cashier my card to take care of it all. The woman was floored, and tearfully grateful.

But to me, helping like that shouldn't be exceptional. It should be the default. See someone who needs a hand, help them out as best you can. We are put on this earth to help each other. It is not our place to judge whether someone's need is legitimate, or to weigh the worthiness of their situation. Just see a need, and help as best we can. That's it.
posted by xedrik at 11:06 PM on July 21 [11 favorites]


I told my dad that he was probably going to spend the money on alcohol or something, but my dad said that 'whether he is lying or not says something about HIS character, but hearing someone in need and having the means to help them and choosing to do nothing says something about mine.'

Worth reading in full.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:17 AM on July 22 [24 favorites]


The thing that gets me, how is this a "scam"? Do people really not understand what one is anymore? I've been watching a channel that baits along tech scammers because it's just so fascinating to me that it's so widespread, but to me it just seems entirely obvious from the jump. Like a third grade magic show.
posted by WeX Majors at 1:09 AM on July 22 [2 favorites]


I've been scammed on. I know what it's like, what the patter is & what the payoff is. This is not it.

One city I lived in, there was a guy I'd run into every so often who I guess made a living at it. He was trying to me to give him money for gas for his car so he could pick up his kid, yadda yadda yadda. Over maybe 6 months he hit me up at least 5 times; same neighborhood, same guy, same patter. That was a scam. Busting into tears in the line for an armful of groceries, that's need.

I fully support this motto & I'm adopting it for myself. We can all stand to do more good recklessly.
posted by scalefree at 2:22 AM on July 22 [6 favorites]


But to me, helping like that shouldn't be exceptional. It should be the default.

It should also be not needed. All modern western societies are rich enough that these things should be very rare. And yes, I've helped once or twice like this, because of course. But it should always be with thoughts about "how do we fix our country so we don't need to do this"
posted by DreamerFi at 3:26 AM on July 22 [26 favorites]


Love this, and boy does the world need stuff like this right now.
posted by newpotato at 3:31 AM on July 22 [1 favorite]


Part of what makes this kind of encounter possible is the anonymity of urban life: you aren't likely to see the person again. But the story changes when you encounter the same person needing help over and over. It might be a scam, but it's often just a bad situation, sometimes compounded by mental illness.

There's one guy in particular these days who's very friendly and well-meaning. Sometimes it's every couple weeks, sometimes it's every couple of days. He always just needs two dollars or eight dollars, and he's willing to work. If I have some cash in my pocket, I'll usually share it, but I won't open the till (though I'm the owner). I wish I could employ more people, but I'm not exactly riding the rocket train to profit city myself.

Mainly I try to be nice. Kindness makes a difference in a society where poverty is seen as a personal failure. That attitude is what's enabled both parties to participate in the dismantling of the social safety net.
posted by rikschell at 5:14 AM on July 22 [9 favorites]


this is wonderful. I was at a gathering of my wife's family a few weeks ago and talking to a cousin of hers, whose 17-year-old son was going to be in D.C. soon for a school thing. one of the big items he wanted to make sure to have on him was a thick enough wad of dollar bills that he could give money to anyone who asked him for it.

as a mild tangent: what I said in response was that I wish I had the lack of social anxiety and general cash-on-hand to feel like that was reasonable. it's so crushing after a while, living in (or just outside) a city and walking past the same people every day, feeling desperate to help but also unable to imagine the emotional investment of becoming a dependency for each of those people, suddenly trying to play the impossible game of "what I have goes to you, but not to you, at least not today".

(remember that this is of course exactly the emotional response capitalism relies upon in these situations, regardless of whether you act on it: feeling individually responsible and guilty for failing to fix systemic problems.)

but I know that since that conversation I like to have more cash on hand, for this sort of thing, whenever I can.
posted by Kybard at 5:16 AM on July 22 [6 favorites]


I had a guy come up to me at Target holding a gas can asking for money to buy gas. I told him to meet me at the gas station down the street since i was kinda in a hurry.

Flipped the gas station attendant a twenty and told him the guy would be coming with a gas can - fill it up and put the rest in his tank when he got his car there.

Attendant says, "you know that's probably a scam right?" I reply, yeah - but if he doesn't show in an hour, put ten in your tank and ten in someone else's.

Next week at Target, same guy, same gas can...I asked him why he didn't show come down to the gas station?
posted by notsnot at 6:09 AM on July 22 [2 favorites]


I decided long ago that if people are willing to debase themselves on the off chance that a stranger will give them a couple of bucks, then scam or not, they need the money more than I do.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:15 AM on July 22 [17 favorites]


A Hong Kong vignette:

Yesterday I was passing through Hong Kong Station on my way to plane-spot at the airport and saw a bunch of kids of the age I teach, teens basically, all clad in black and headed to the protest. They were counting coins standing in front of the drinks case at the 7-11 and doing that impossibly quiet teen mumble to each other as they saw me with my cash in hand, the one that means they don't want to ask for help but do actually want some help.

I asked if I could 'get these drinks' for them and they politely moved to the side, thinking I wanted to get into the fridge.

'No. Can I buy some drinks for you? [one arm outstretched toward fridge, other hand waving cash] Let me pay.' Happily, they accepted (and beamed).

Too often, this is not a city where people pay their neighbours much attention. I become a permanent resident in a month or so, and if there's one thing I want to dig into once I can vote, it's how to help my community feel like the kind of place where doing good recklessly is the default and not an exception.
posted by mdonley at 6:19 AM on July 22 [9 favorites]


One city I lived in, there was a guy I'd run into every so often who I guess made a living at it. He was trying to me to give him money for gas for his car so he could pick up his kid, yadda yadda yadda.

Yeah, I've gotten that one a couple of times from different people. Thing is...who would do that for fun? Most people would probably rather buy their own gas.

Same thing for panhandling; standing on the side of a highway in blazing heat, with a cardboard sign, inhaling exhaust and waiting for cops to show up is not anyone's idea of a good time. Maybe it's a scam but more likely that person is in a pretty bad place if they are there.
posted by emjaybee at 7:41 AM on July 22 [3 favorites]


I'll just brag for a minute. This one time I was getting new glasses and while I was waiting an old lady found out her glasses would cost $75, which she couldn't afford right then. After she left, I told them to put her glasses on my bill. They were flabbergasted. A couple weeks later when I went to pick my glasses up they told me she was so grateful she started crying. I like to think my long-deceased once blind grandfather was watching with approval. I'd do it again, but it seems so hit-and-miss. I'd rather just pay more taxes.
posted by M-x shell at 7:46 AM on July 22 [13 favorites]


I was at JFK, just heading out. They had put the security belt so close to a doorway, some guy jumped in the door and stole the purse of an elderly Asian woman, right in front of me. She was in shock and did not speak much English. I told the security agent what had happened, and how their organization made this theft possible. I went with her to Delta and told them I would not budge until she was re-ticketed, she was heading toward The Bay Area. I was insistent in the way I can be for others. When she had her ticket, and called her connections with my phone, I gave her a twenty, then caught my plane. If you are lucky, you can be someone's everything, once or twice in a lifetime.
posted by Oyéah at 8:41 AM on July 22 [10 favorites]


I decided long ago that if people are willing to debase themselves on the off chance that a stranger will give them a couple of bucks, then scam or not, they need the money more than I do.

If they're straight up asking, absolutely. Except maybe the ones who have "need money for beer" signs. But even if you need it I'm not going to reward you for cheating. If you're putting that much time & energy into it you can put it into something honest but choose not to.
posted by scalefree at 11:36 AM on July 22


Yeah, I've gotten that one a couple of times from different people. Thing is...who would do that for fun? Most people would probably rather buy their own gas.

They're not doing it for fun but they're cheating to avoid having to do honest work or even just being honest about needing money if they can't find it for whatever reason. Sorry, not going to reward that.
posted by scalefree at 11:39 AM on July 22


cheating to avoid having to do honest work

if they are homeless, they might not be able to get a job, because they don't have an address or an id or both. or they might have mental illness that precludes a job. or a physical disability that precludes a job. if someone is willing to stand in 90* weather at a stoplight for hours with no water or food or shade, to get a few bucks, that person would almost certainly be willing to do a job of some kind and isn't able to for whatever reason.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 1:33 PM on July 22 [9 favorites]


Begging seems like a hard day's work to me. And "I don't have any source of income, are you willing to make a donation" doesn't strike me as particularly dishonest.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:25 PM on July 22 [2 favorites]


Except maybe the ones who have "need money for beer" signs.

There's a pleasant fellow in Victoria, BC who sets up outside a 7-11 on Government Street with a sign that says "Honestly, it's for weed" and I chuckle and donate.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:49 PM on July 22


cheating to avoid having to do honest work or even just being honest about needing money if they can't find it for whatever reason

I think "the intense societal stigma and shame of open poverty" is a pretty decent reason to not want to be as honest about it as possible.

they're trying to make you feel OK about giving them money (OK enough to give it, at least) when just saying "I need money" gets them spit on or ignored 99% of the time. I can't reasonably think of that as cheating.
posted by Kybard at 4:13 PM on July 22 [2 favorites]


They're not doing it for fun but they're cheating to avoid having to do honest work or even just being honest about needing money if they can't find it for whatever reason. Sorry, not going to reward that.

Haha, so glad we got such an excellent example of this maxim from the thread:

I told my dad that he was probably going to spend the money on alcohol or something, but my dad said that 'whether he is lying or not says something about HIS character, but hearing someone in need and having the means to help them and choosing to do nothing says something about mine.'

Indeed.
posted by invitapriore at 4:28 PM on July 22 [10 favorites]


Honest Work is an interesting concept. At least beggars and grifters are their own bosses. An honest day's pay seems is whatever the market can shuck people down to. I am reminded of the woman a couple of years back who suffocated in her car napping between her three jobs, her honest three day's work done in one day, at even then, less than reasonable pay. And, she left small children in the wake of her passing. This time abounds in nineteenth century sentiments, it is like some never ending Dickens novel. Here's to grocery line heroes, people who leave food and water for travellers, volunteers...
posted by Oyéah at 8:30 PM on July 22 [3 favorites]


I have some lived experience with this. I was a homeless panhandler for part of my life.

Fyi: the honest sign that says "need money for tampons" gets you no money. The jokey sign that says "need money for beer" gets you money.

Anyways, panhandling is possibly the most wretchedly humiliating experience I've ever had, and it's something I had to do for a long time- my poverty wasn't solved in a day or a week or a month.

Later in life, though no longer homeless, I was in terrible financial circumstances that prevented me from finishing my schooling. I owe the fact that I now have a job with a living wage to the generosity of strangers.
posted by windykites at 8:42 PM on July 22 [16 favorites]


And, for what it's worth, my problem with what I quoted is that I actually don't think that lying about why you need money if you're in the position to ask for it from other people says anything about your character. Living without fear of destitution or bodily or psychological harm on account of that destitution is a basic human right no matter what any government says. If local law and custom is such that you need to lie to get even a little bit closer to achieving that for yourself, then lying is the right thing to do, full stop. Any moral code that prizes some facile and rigid sense of Honesty over one's right to just live is fucking perverse.
posted by invitapriore at 11:04 PM on July 22 [5 favorites]


Oh god. I grew up in a household where everything was considered a "scam" as if kindness for its own sake was a kind of toxic naivety. Still getting over that shit. Thank you for this.
posted by gohabsgo at 1:08 AM on July 23 [5 favorites]


Except maybe the ones who have "need money for beer" signs.

I honestly feel those are likely to fall under the 'shouting fire instead of rape to get help' kinda thing. There's enough people that go with the 'haha funny sure it validates my beliefs' that might outweigh the contingent of 'oh this street person is trying to scam me out of my hard earned seventy nine cents'.
posted by FatherDagon at 6:58 AM on July 23 [4 favorites]




Begging seems like a hard day's work to me. And "I don't have any source of income, are you willing to make a donation" doesn't strike me as particularly dishonest.

People have totally misread me. I'm differentiating between people directly asking for money because they have no income & people trying to trick me into giving it to them because of some patter they developed to exploit a vulnerability in my expectations. If your fundamental approach to solving your problems is dishonest I won't reward you for it.

I understand the mindset, I don't want to give them the resources they need to escalate their activity. Do you really think Gas Can Guy is saving up so he can work in a bodega & maybe on to a bookstore or office job? He's going to turn to other kinds of crime because that's how he makes his way in the world.

I'm generous when I see actual need as in the stories in the OPP. But I recognize there are also little criminals who'll become bigger ones if they have the opportunity.
posted by scalefree at 9:49 AM on July 23 [1 favorite]


scalefree, why do you feel the need to keep coming into a thread about doing reckless good to make your points? Reckless is in the fucking title. Whatever the reason: you’ve made them. Can we maybe focus on talking about doing good in the world without interrogation about whether the person we’re helping really deserves it or whether doing good will be responsible for that person turning to a life of crime?

I don’t think you’re being misread. I think you’re just derailing what otherwise has been a really nice thread about the kindness of strangers.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 12:01 PM on July 23 [9 favorites]


I spent a number of years sleeping in parking garages and scraping food off half-eaten plates at late-night diners. I've had sleep for dinner more times than I can count. I know smoking helps control hunger pains, and I know you can find almost completely un-smoked cigarettes outside burn wards, put there by bikers who thought it would be more authentic to ride without leathers.

I know how to make a ketchup milkshake, and if you get a "with cheese" at Dennys you also get free water, Saltines, and lemons. I know panhandling is more profitable if you have a puppy, and I know how to sleep with my backpack tucked under my knees so it doesn't get stolen. I know how to dissolve the UV dye that blood banks paint your thumb with to avoid double-drawing.

Has anyone who ever worries about "being scammed" actually experienced what it's like to try and live without basic needs?
posted by endotoxin at 1:35 PM on July 24 [8 favorites]


« Older Literal: “to poop in the blue cupboard”   |   Chinese vertical dramas made for phone viewing... Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.