As the economy gets worse and we start to shoot each other over three piece chicken dinners*, I've been giving some thought to one-on-one giving...
We usually try to buy souvenirs to support the local economy when we travel, particularly where the standard of living is no where near that of home. We did buy some things in Ocho Rios. We did not buy anything but a photograph at Dunn's River Falls. WAY too pushy.
When we were at the falls, we had a wonderful time climbing them, bought a picture of ourselves with shocked expressions as we were pushed into the freezing water, and then worked our way through a designated labyrinth of lean to shops that we were shepherded into, to get back to the bus that brought us there. It was work. Because it was far from obvious how to get out of the maze and in every direction there was someone calling for you to look at their chotchkies, pulling at you, offering you ganja. It was downright claustrophobic. One effective gambit was this:
Vendor, with carved wooden cup in hand: Hey, welcome to Jamaica. Are you having a good time?
Vendor: Beautiful lady/Big guy, what's your name?
Tourist: [provides name]
Vendor, already carving the name into the front of the cup: Good to meet you, [name]. That's [name] with an A, right?
Of course, once the name was carved into the cup (mere seconds), the tourist felt obligated to buy it.
When we were in New Orleans, we were walking down a street when one of four reasonably dressed, college aged boys asked if he could please have a dollar so he could get beer. I laughed, then gave him a dollar. At least he was honest.
Here, I'll sometimes pay street musicians and sometimes pay beggars. I find there's a correlation between how happy I am and whether I'll give. The more fortunate I feel, the more likely I am to give. I've noticed the same thing with donations to charitable organizations.
I have grudgingly paid belligerent squeegee guys (the people who stand in the median and start cleaning your windshield while you are stuck at a light even though you didn't ask for this service) not because I wanted to but because I couldn't avoid the confrontation.
And a confession: At times, I've left change in public places, hoping that someone would be happy to come across it.
Which brings us to the questions du jour: Would you give money under any of these circumstances? Would you rather pay someone a) for a service (be it squeegee, music, carving or some other un-asked for thing), b) simply because they need it, or c) not at all?
*Winner, winner, chicken dinner!