Editor’s Scratchpad

Thursday, August 16, 2001

Altruism has its price

Are beggars now learning how to be choosers?

Recently, I was accosted by a straightforward indigent in an unlikely place. He asked me to buy him a burger. After silently refusing, a nagging memory of a Bible story about angels in disguise persuaded me to take him up on the offer. Going to a restaurant's outdoor counter, I slipped $20 to the bartender, and indicated the man whom I wanted to receive a free meal.

On learning that I'd just bought him a meal (at a decent Mexican place, I might add), he was so filled with humble gratitude that he demanded to know how much I had given the bartender. I told him to just go order what he wanted -- I had taken care of it. He then started to demand the cash itself, and then the change.

I had already told the bartender to keep the change as a tip, and so I walked away feeling a little more cynical, and a little more skeptical about angels in disguise.

Jason Seaborn

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