When I walk the streets of Paris and pass by someone asking for money I often wonder, “What if everyone gave them a one cent euro coin?” I imagine that it wouldn’t take long before that person would have enough money to possibly change their circumstances.
This form of direct giving conflicts with one that asks for sustainability and self-sufficiency in return. I suspect a lot of people have complicated feelings about direct giving and what messages it potentially sends. While I share these feelings, I’ve come to believe there are instances where people are just down on their luck and need a helping hand. I will never forget the times I’ve been afforded help during the lowest points in my life.
You may have grappled with similar questions when it comes to giving. Truthfully, I’ve always been one to encourage self-sufficiency and independence, and only wanted to help people who can ultimately get off the need for assistance. While I will always strive for that form of giving, I also realize it’s OK to sometimes just extend a helping hand.
This is the approach that Karl Eriksson, my beloved father-in-law and inspirational founder of SAS U-Assist, employed when he traveled around the world (see the Legacy Page for more about his life). Now, when I go for a walk on the streets of Paris, I’m going to take some small change with me. And if I pass by a man, woman, or child asking for money, I’m going to quietly drop a few coins into their cup. I hope those around me will do the same.