Give A Granola Bar
Somehow I have found myself in conversations with friends multiple times this past month about how to respond when someone on the street asks you for money. Now that I live downtown, and go for daily walks, and run most of my errands around the neighborhood, I find myself walking by or being approached by someone asking for money pretty much daily. And it can be confusing or awkward to know what the “right” thing to do is, right?
I’m always interested to hear about my friends’ experiences and advice on the topic. Most people I know always want to give and to “help”. But knowing what is actually “helping” can be tricky to navigate. (And I probably can’t and shouldn’t judge that anyway.)
As someone who pretty much never carries cash (sorry Dave Ramsey), I always used to feel a little frustrated and helpless when I found myself wanting to give to someone asking. But about a decade ago, a friend turned me onto a simple yet brilliant alternative — giving out granola bars.
Well, ten years later, they’re “energy” bars. ;) But the idea is the same.
And it’s really simple.
Just toss a box or two of energy bars into your cart when you go grocery shopping. (I stock up on a few boxes each month.) Then store them in the glove compartment or drivers’ side door of your car. (Ideally, I also try to keep at least one in my purse, but it’s kind of a bottomless hole and things get lost in there.) Then whenever you drive by someone on the street who is asking for money, you can have an energy bar literally within reach and offer it to the person.
Here’s the thing. In ten years, I can probably count on one hand the number of people who have turned down an energy/granola bar. Instead, I often get a quizzical look when I first mention it, but then people almost always accept them gratefully. And then I can be grateful to know that they at least have a healthy snack they can turn to that day. (Although I must say that the chocolate-coated energy bars are by far the most popular.) ;)
Granted, if I have some cash on me, I usually try to give some of that too if someone asks. And at absolute minimum, I hope to always at least take the time to look the person in the eye and give a kind hello. But I’m telling ya — there’s something to be said for granola bars too. Plus, they are small and easy to store, they are relatively inexpensive, and they are packaged and can last for months.
Now trust me, I know that there is a much larger conversation behind this topic about hunger and homelessness in our country, which is another topic for another day. And I’m all for giving hopefully financially hopefully far beyond the cost of energy bars to organizations, and churches, and people, and any other places that help get to the root causes of hunger and poverty. The more we can give — especially social justice-minded “gifts” this holiday season — the better.
But, if any of you are looking for ways to respond and give to the people you may cross paths with on a daily basis, I just wanted to pass along this idea that my friend once passed along to me.
(And if you happen to pick up a box of granola bars to give out, I would totally love to hear how it goes!)