We popped into a wine store, on Thanksgiving Monday, a day when most such stores are closed. Joe picked out a couple of bottles of wine and, as we were checking out, we were offered a large bottle of cider, with cinnamon flavouring, which was on special. Even though Joe's not a cider drinker, we picked it up, anticipating that we may have use for it over the upcoming holidays.
About a block away, a fellow of maybe 40 was sitting on the street with a sign asking for money. It was a terrifically honest sign saying that he wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving with a bottle of wine or a case of beer. After quickly conferring with Joe, I approached him and said, "What about, instead of money, we just gave you a bottle of cider."
"Are you for real?" he said, his voice indicating that people don't always treat him with the honestly he was displaying.
I told him I was and as I speaking, Joe pulled out the bottle. It was a fair sized bottle, larger than the wine bottles which we'd also purchased.
He broke into a grin and said, "Well I'll be giving thanks for you guys today, that's for sure."
We wished him well, and he returned the sentiments.
It was a pleasant interlude in our walk home.
For only a few seconds.
A husband and wife team sped up to us and started laying into us about what we had just done. We, apparently, were horrible people feeding his addiction. We were enabling him and as a direct result of our behaviour he would stay on the street. I asked if they were addiction counsellors and they said they weren't but that 'everyone knew that.' I told them that I didn't know why he was on the street, I didn't know if he was an alcoholic or if he had any addiction, I was just moved to give him what he asked for.
It didn't feel wrong when I did it. And as I thought about it, I thought that the excuse the cider gave us to have a brief bit of social interaction was right in line with the spirit of the holidays.
They told me, in no uncertain terms, that they never give to 'beggers' on the street and that they felt it their duty to tell me not to either. I told them that I was going to stay resolutely in the spirit of 'Thanksgiving' and that I was thankful that I lived in a country where they had free speech and that I could freely choose to ignore what they said.
I don't know if what I did was right or wrong.
But I hope, whatever else, he, the man on the street, had a great Thanksgiving.