I normally don’t like to do what I call nickel and dime charity. I prefer giving a bunch of money to a soup kitchen to giving a wino my spare change. I prefer giving money to a wounded soldier’s fund to buying a magnetic ribbon for my car. I prefer giving money to disease research to buying colored rubber wrist bands.
But lately I’ve been wondering about that. It started this spring when I got my tax return back. I was having trouble deciding what charities to give the money to, so I just converted a bunch of it to $10 bills and handed them out to anyone who would take one at the Metro station. I had to ask myself, if I have no problem giving $10 to someone who isn’t asking for it, why do I have a problem giving $1 to someone who is asking for it? The first thing that pops to mind is that the guy who is asking for it is just going to buy booze with it. But I bet a lot of the people I gave $10 went and bought booze with that.
So I decided to do an experiment. I set aside $365 out of the money I would normally give to charity. Every day I am going to try to give $1 to someone who asks for it. I figure the first day I will give a dollar to the first person who asks for it, the second day I will give a dollar to the second person who asks for it, and so on. If I ever give a dollar to the last person who asks for it (that is, whatever street musician is at Shady Grove Metro in the evening), then the next day I will start with the first person again. If I don’t give out money one day (like the weekends) I can just give to more than one person the next day. I don’t know if I am going to like this or not, but I am going to give it a try.
Unfortunately, I have hit two problems right off the bat. The first one is the obvious one: all the homeless people have disappeared. Really, they’re all gone: the guy who plays trumpet in the mornings at Bethesda Metro, the people sleeping in the tunnel under Wisconsin Ave., the loud guy on East West Highway. I guess the weather got cold enough that they all went to ground. Or I hope that’s the case, and they’re not all frozen to death or something. But even the street musicians in the evening at Bethesda Metro are gone. I had three or four people asking me for money on a daily basis before Christmas, and now the latino zamfir player at Shady Grove is getting all my money. He seems happy with the deal at least.
The second problem is that it’s a leap year. Do I have to give out $4 on the 29th of February, or can I get by with just $1? And now I hear they’re adding a leap second on June 30th. Am I going to have to give someone an extra penny that day? I had no idea it was going to be this complicated.