Life

Mini-altruism Lifehack – Michael Lee Nirenberg – Medium

I wish I could help everyone on the street. I really do.

The combination of wealth disparity, systemic racism, lack of drug rehabs, lack of affordable housing, and the closure of mental health facilities over the years have all contributed to a growing homeless problem here in New York City. It’s not as bad as what I saw in San Francisco, but it’s pretty awful nonetheless.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often run into the problem of being approached by panhandlers nearly every day either in the street or in the subway. After years of living in the city, I finally developed a strategy that helps me give out a few dollars a day without much fuss. Before I leave the house every day I make sure I have no less than one single dollar bill in each front pocket. As I write this I have two dollars in my left pocket and three dollars in my right pocket. When I go back out later I am intent on giving these singles out to someone who really needs it.

Your criticism: Wouldn’t it make more sense to save all those single dollar bills and give them to an institution or an individual where it can do some substantial good in the aggregate?

My reply: Good point. You can still give that way. That still doesn’t change the fact that every day I’ll be hit up for cash on the streets. What you find is you’ll say “No” and shrug less. That feels good.

Your criticism: This only works for pants or jeans with front pockets. What if you wear dresses every day?

My reply: That’s true. I only wear pants or jeans so this technique won’t work for you unless you find a way to adapt it.

When you do want to help, this technique also mitigates the awkward fumbling with your wallet and possibly flashing the $20 dollar bills that you have earmarked for your daily expenses. If you really are making a lot of money there’s no reason why you shouldn’t make those bigger bills in your front dispersal pockets.

I see it as just one of the hidden costs of doing business here. I hope you find it useful.


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