Solomon was not only considered Israel’s richest and wisest king, but a preacher as well. Therefore, it was probably during one of his synagogue sermons when he verbalized his “To Everything There is a Season” speech. He spoke of “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,7). This coincides perfectly with the statement Mandi Stewart, public relations director for the Greenville corps of the Salvation Army, made concerning a particular way in dealing with panhandlers in Greenville (“Panhandling commonplace, locals say,” April 1 Daily Reflector). She suggests “you take time to converse with them” to see if their story maintains sincere elements of truth before giving them money. This would be the “time” to speak.
Many lines a panhandler feeds you come off as erratic and fragmented. That’s when I ask open ended questions, like “how did you become homeless” and “what happened to your family?” Then I keep silent and listen. I watch their body language. If they become irritable or their facial expression abruptly changes, my inclination for giving money diminishes considerably.
The tips Greenville police offered were very good ideas. Creating index cards with information on local charities, food kitchens, shelters and churches — including their addresses and phone numbers — are inexpensive ways the public can easily give to their next potential panhandler who desires a hand out. Special thanks to Kristin Zachary for such an informative and much needed article.
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