A Moral Dilemma

I’d like your thoughts on a moral dilemma I encountered last night in San Francisco. Here’s the story:

On my way in to an In-n-Out Burger to grab a quick bite, there was a homeless guy in his mid-twenties sitting in front of the door with his scrawny-but-cute dog. He asked, “Could you please spare some food when you come out?”.

Now, San Francisco is known for having one of the worst homeless problems in the nation. But the homeless’ public benefits here are good compared to the rest of the nation (health care, shelters, etc). Many argue that the homeless situation is so bad because most homeless receive benefits well enough such that they don’t have an incentive to try and remedy their situation. That is, it’s just easy enough to be homeless, that they don’t try to be otherwise.

So:

  1. Do you give the guy some food on the way out (or some money) because it is the holiday season after all, you’re a Christian, and you genuinely want to help people in times of need?
  2. Or do you ignore the request because if you succumb, you’re only ‘enabling’ that person, plus you make it uncomfortable for future restaurant guests because the homeless person might be encouraged to stay there and try again later.

What do you do? Why?

5 thoughts on “A Moral Dilemma”

  1. Personally, if I have been blessed enough to be able to spare extra food on the way out, that is what I would do. As a Christian, I am charged to help the hungry and homeless, so that is my choice. However, I also agree the system is flawed and needs change, but change should come from system reform, not through”harming” those stuck in it.

  2. Hi Les,
    A very tricky situation :) although i feel it is humane to help out if your instincts say so. But given that this person is mid or early twenties, surely he has to wake up and such a country like US where one has the opportunity to have welfare schemes

    But helping out has got nothing to do with being a christian..one is a human before he/she follows a religion.Just my 2 cents:)

    1. If my instincts are clear to offer food/money based on who is homeless(subjective)
    2. If my instincts say..I am only encouraging this person..then say a prayer for him and move on.

  3. I am a Muslim, and helping poor and homeless is duty for Muslims too. I would help them out by sparing some food, not money (they may have an addiction and trying to get some money for those purposes). Nevertheless, it is your intentions that matter, not his. If you are asking this question here, you probably thought you should spare some food :).

  4. I knew this person whose brother was a computer programmer and making six figures, and he was homeless because he couldn’t hold a job. Some people just can’t get and hold a job.

    Maybe one way to handle this dilemma would be to ask: What if I am in this situation? How would I like people to treat me?

  5. Feel your dilemma mate. I don’t give money but I love to give food. Just can’t say no to a person asking for food. Well.. most often they ask for money and not food. One and another seem to be a little bit ashamed when I go away and buy food to them, as if they didn’t bother one bit for food but only wanted money – for what? Was in Thailand last year and almost got broke so much food I bought and gave away to what I considered “must be” poor people. In particular there was one lady with a young kid on her shoulders, dirty and pale, walking down the streets asking for money. I didn’t give her money but I insisted on her following me to the grocery store and there I had her buy as much food she could carry. Later I saw her give those bags away to a suspicious man “in charge” behind a street corner, and then she return with the child to the streets, begging for more. It hit me that most of the stuff she grabbed at the store was pure candy and the like. Not your average cooking gear! Shit. I felt genuinely robbed. And sure I was just another fool maintaining a bad system, enabling people to literary “feed on others”.

    So after that experience I only buy food, at restaurants to homeless people. And I make them eat it. All of it =)

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