I never thought that I would meet a homeless person who would all but sneer at me for offering them food. But, I guess stranger things have happened.
Let me backtrack for you:
Yesterday, I was on my way to the dining hall and I happened to pass the security desk. The two guards there told me that there were trays of sandwiches left in a room where some conference or convention had just taken place, and they offered me a tray to share with the people on my floor.
As a college student, I never pass up an opportunity for free food, so I took them up. I ate two, but no one else on my floor wanted any. I was going to throw the rest out, when, on my way to the garbage, I realized that I was about to waste a crazy amount of food when there are people out there who hadn't eaten in weeks.
So, I thought it would be a better to give the sandwiches to a homeless person, who needed them way more than I did. I went and got my coat, went out with the tray of sandwiches, and decided I would give it to the first homeless person I saw.
About two blocks away from me, I saw a man with a sign that said he needed food and shelter. I approached him, volunteering to at least take care of the food part for a little while.
But, when I offered him the tray of sandwiches, he looked at it the way a kid looks at a present they don't like. I kid you not.
Here's a rundown of the conversation:
Me: Excuse me, sir? Would you like this tray of sandwiches?
Homeless Man: *looking me and my sandwiches up and down* Um... Eh, I don't know... I mean, I guess...
Me: Don't worry - if you don't want it, I'll take it. I just have all of this food and figured it shouldn't go to waste.
Homeless Man: *still turning his nose up* I mean, I guess I don't want to let the food go to waste either. I mean, I guess I'll take one.
I'm not sure that he even thanked me.
So I took the tray of sandwiches with me and I couldn't find any other homeless people, and I wasn't about to walk all over Manhattan, so I left them on the sidewalk a block up. I figured, Maybe some other hungry, homeless person will see them and eat them, and then my efforts won't have been in vain.
I don't know, maybe I'm missing something. But, I do know that if I were homeless and had someone offering me a tray of sandwiches, I would want to give them a big kiss. The way I was raised, the first thing out of your mouth when you are offered something is, "Thank you."
It doesn't matter if you don't ever use what they gave you, or if you plan on throwing it out the second they leave. Or if you must decline, politely say, "No thank you." But, you definitely don't size up what they are offering you, as if they are auditioning for you.
What's even worse is that I know that isn't the worst that could happen. I have heard stories of people giving homeless people money, only to have the person curse at them because they didn't feel like the money was enough.
Rest assured, I still believe in helping those less fortunate than you. But people like the man I encountered give homeless people a bad name. People like him are the reason why a lot of New Yorkers, in particular, don't always like to help people on the street. They are costing the more gracious ones money or food that they could be receiving. And, honestly, they better stop. Ingratitude and homelessness is a deadly combination.