I got a lot of feedback on this post. Emails, comments, Facebook thingies, you name it. Nearly everyone had advice and I would say there was not much of a consensus (except maybe that I'm a jerk) which I think really just shows how much of a conflict there is when confronted with this sort of thing.
None of you changed my opinion but I'll share insight that I did not share within the original post. After all, this was a bit of a thought experiment.
- The man mostly had legitimate food in his basket and paid for it with cash. He was not using any governmental assistance to purchase this. I suspect it's true for the coffee too.
- I absolutely did not judge him to be a panhandler/bum. He fit the profile of someone who was simply poor.
- He is not unlike about dozen other people at this same store, at this same time, just about everyday.
- I'm not a bleeding heart. I don't help people with a gesture to make myself feel good. I help where I see help will actually help.
- He seemed genuinely happy and greeted people around him.
- I never, at any point, felt like I was enabling him to have a certain lifestyle by buying him shoes. He needed shoes. I don't consider poverty to be a crime or a virtue. The poor will always be among us.
- I called myself judgmental and this was a problem for three of you. Being both judgmental and discriminate are good things. We practice judgment and discrimination every day in the choices we make. They are good things when done with the right motivations.
- My first instinct on this was to buy him shoes. This was MY first instinct...I totally understand if it wouldn't be yours. I don't compel people to apply my own convictions of mercy and charity to their own lives. Any thinking person could raise credible arguments for letting him continue in those shoes…many of you did.
- I’m also wearing worn shoes and with my longer hair and beard I could’ve been a candidate in someone’s eyes for help also. That makes me laugh kind of.
- Based on all that I've told you...I still decided not to get him shoes. I judge that as a mistake...in this case.