There is a woman on a main street in Seattle who often begs using this line. Since I am cronically broke, I usually give her a smile. She is always grateful, as am I for the return smile. In one moment, with the change of her face she can remind me about humanity. Probably, I am more grateful than she is. :)

For some reason, possibly because they think they are obliged to give, many people look away when asked for change. The message this probably sends is 'I couldn't give a fuck about you' rather than 'I feel guilty at my lack of charity'. The best compromise is either:

  1. Look at the person and say "No", but in an apologetic tone of voice.
  2. Give them some change.

Saying 'No, sorry' always suggests (to me at least) 'I have change but I don't want to give it to you' rather than an intended 'I genuinely can't spare my change, but I feel bad about your lifestyle'.

I have seen a few really great "Spare Change" signs recently, one of which was the title of this node. The others:

"If you can spare it, share it. If you need it, just ask."

"Welcome to wonderful Wilshire Blvd. Toll: $1"

"Money 4 beer".

"$1000".

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