BUMS…..Give or Take?

This is a super controversial subject,

But one I felt the need to address because I was having a conversation about it which was more like a heated debate.

As a former ‘bleeding heart’, I found my self deeply sympathetic to the plight of the everyday beggar, panhandler, or desperate person who I’d come across in my New York city life.

My receptiveness to the human condition overshadowed any logical thought as to the mechanics involved in and behind a life of desparity.

I never stopped to think what makes these people tick?

I just used to think those people who shunned them were just mean-spirited folk who were miserly and judgemental. People like my father who used to suck their teeth at the sight of a person asking for something, that something usually being money.

But there is a dynamic to being a down and out person, and the sad truth is that people don’t like to say things that sound unpleasant, but there are some blunt realities in life.

It took a conversation with my boy Brandon Carter to give me a different angle on my viewpoint of those ‘less fortunate’ .  I had dreams of giving every homeless person I saw a hundred dollar bill when I became wealthier, Building homes when I was financially set, and having a hand in eradicating worldwide poverty when I got filthy rich.

Sounds nice right?

The thing is, I was thinking that my little general donation of pennies was putting me on the path to do so. I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories of the person who offers a bum some food instead of cah and they’ve gotten less-than -grateful responses. In my time living in D.C., me and Brandon used to frequent the 711 on our studio runs and come across the most unpleasant of these such characters. After explaining to me one day why he was so rude to one particular beggar who had previously insulted and scared his girlfriend, Brandon later revealed his philosophy on those broken people like our 7-11 friend.

Now Brandon is a man who I’ve seen treat total strangers to a hot meal, give people rides, money, even urge me to let the dude with the I-just-killed-a-man look at the gas station, pump my gas. Not to mention, at the time, he was heavy into paying Tithes. So this is not a selfish, Jerkish, bastard we’re talking about here. He probably sees more of the good in most people than they do in themselves.

But yet and still he explained to me that giving a bum money when they’re just holding there hands out, is just telling them it’s okay to be pitiful. It’s an enabling agent. the worst insult is when these are able bodied men and women you’re talking about.

It sounds silly, but I didn’t fully embrace this ideology until I saw the Will Smith flick “Pursuit of Happyness”, based on the real life story of Chris Gardener, a self made man who worked his way out of rock bottom to become a top financial expert. Not only did he have to experience the perils of surviving homelessness and the threat of daily uncertainty, but he had to fend for himself and his young child simultaneously.

It’s the stuff that Hollywood is made for, but tales like this mean so much more for me. They’re human interest stories. What I thought was the human condition was empathy and giving to your fellow man to better themselves. But what’s really human is accepting that you have an oppurtunity everyday. That there is a chance for us all and you get what you give.

So yes, I can still build those houses one day, and maybe I can have a hand in eradicating this social ill, but that will only be as a result of proactive aid and true HELP, not by giving away my hard earned money to someone who has decided to dedicate their days to politely sticking you up!

Iam not talking about the situational homeless, or people in true need, or going through hard times. No. I’m talking about serial losers. The technical term being the ‘chronic homeless’. Better Known as Bums. And the Basic Psychology of your everyday, run-of-the-mill ‘bum’ is that he or she is an individual who has given up on themselves and have been convinced that it’s okay to be rewarded by you for that.

Every coin given is a greenlight that there will always be at least one person who will look out for them, so why try??.

We’re not all put on this planet with the same amount of time in one day right?

There aren’t programs that are out there solely to help people who WANT to be helped and truly desire to lead a normal life right?

In trying to find some quick research to back up my thoughts on this, I came across this interesting Comic strip by Peter Bagge.

Tell me what you think…


  1. Well done Mr. 16! 🙂

  2. Malik, I think you make some valid points above, especially around the issue of enabling. I used to HATE when homeless people asked me for money when I was in college…I had the mentality that I was busting my butt to work through college, pay my rent and keep food in my mouth and they needed to do the same. However, the more Christian I became and began to work on becoming a better person, I began to live and see more of the good in all, AND, I began to see myself in part of every body…even homelessness.

    I don’t think that it is fair to put all homeless people in a boat and judge them all like they are all looking for a hand out. Each of them have a different story, as we do as people of all different backgrounds, religions, etc. Some may be looking for a hand out and others may not….it is EXTREMELY HUMBLING to have to ask for money and takes a great toll on most people’s ego and state of being…I HATE asking for change when I am short on bus fare or metro fare….so, I can only imagine what others feel when they HAVE to do it to eat daily, etc.

    Lastly, as for your boy B….okay…ONE bum scared your girlfriend! So ALL homeless people are just like him!!! That is so unfair! Many Black men have robbed and raped people, and are in jail….does that mean ALL black men are this way and that it is fair for others to judge you based off of one bad encounter??? Jesus often disguised himself as those less fortunate in society to teach us that we should always give without judging or try to help others without judging or looking for something back in return. You never know how God will use you to bless others, and God ALWAYS blesses us whether we deserve it or not and we all know….none of us are worthy of the continual blessings God gives…SO who are any of we to turn our cheek on another?

    Just give the dam change…LOL!!!!! Sike naw, you never know who your lil change may bless….and when giving in the name of God….you can never go wrong 😉

  3. So to truly shine light on this situation I think we should first start off by knowing who these ‘bums’ and ‘chronic homeless’ are. According to The United States Department of Health and Human services, 3.5 million people are homeless in a course of a year. This number includes adults and children. Majority of these cases are due to natural disasters, house fires, and community evacuation. Out of this number 500,000 are homeless on a chronic, protracted basis, for a longer period of time. I guess this is the group that you are referring to as ‘bums’. For this group, disabilities associated with mental illness and substance abuse are the main factors. Here are a few stats to expose the make-up of this group; 21% were homeless as children, 27% were in foster care, 23% are veterans, 54% were incarcerated at some point, and 25% were sexually and physically abused. Knowing what we know now about the effects mentally and physically on a person who has endured any of these situations, it seems at first glance, this is the group in dire need of assistance. Whether it is tangible or non-tangible. To begin your life in a state of homelessness is not an easy start to overcome and just move beyond. Are you rewarding their situation by giving your money to them? Even if they wanted to eradicate themselves, but do not have the resources or knowledge being that this is a system they were raised in. But let’s go a little deeper and investigate into the lives of these so called ‘bums’. People who are homeless on a chronic basis are faced with many health issues for example: 66% have substance abuse and/or mental health issues, 39% have mental health problems, and 25% meet the criteria for severe mental health issues, 46% have chronic health issues such as cancer, diabetes, or high blood pressure, 3% have AIDS/HIV, and 26% have other acute health problems such as STD’s, tuberculosis, or pneumonia. Many of these symptoms are active and untreated, and in many cases this hinders them from getting the basic need for food, shelter, safety. Now with the information that we have discovered so far, would it be fair to say that these ‘bums’ are not looking to be rewarded, but need our assistance to obtain these same necessities every human on this earth needs. When did we lose the since of humanity for ALL people regardless of their situation? Why are we not sending our hard earned money to the continent on a daily basis to assist our brothers and sisters there who you would consider a ‘bum’, by your definition, with these basic needs for life. Will you not give to the person in Capetown or Lagos sitting on the corner with a cup? When your home has been destroyed and you are going through post-traumatic stress and slip into a state of idleness and all you know is you need to eat; is it fair to call this person a ‘bum’? Will you not help? Why? I am not saying that we don’t all have a choice and you are correct when you say that some of us were born with the same bodily make-up, and do posses the awareness to rise above their situation. In that case, that person is a bum. This is the true definition of the word, a lazy or shiftless person, especially one who seeks to live solely by the support of others. Many people know bums, they are our friends, neighbors, daughters, cousins, the list can go on. But every person you see on the subway car, on the corner, or at a store isn’t a ‘bum’. You don’t know what they are dealing with and maybe asking for money for food everyday is a start to turning their life around, because many people die everyday due to starvation. This is only the beginning..thanks for the post!

  4. They are not bums! They are human beings who are down on their luck, or have an assortment of troubles like mental illness, alcoholism, unemployment and obviously no housing. If the fundamental problems are addressed, they are no longer homeless. In reality, anyone of us could be in that situation, given the “right” confluence of bad events. We can’t visualize this because we are so wrapped up in our own notion of moral superiority. Something that this country as a whole inculcates in it’s citizens. The propaganda behind this is clear. Supposedly anybody and everybody can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Not to do so implies a weakness of mind and spirit. The premise of this approach is wrong. No one is an island. No one has accomplished anything on their own. We’ve had parents, friends, relatives, and acquaintances in our lives that have helped us achieve whatever good we have done. This is fundamental to the concept of community. Marcus Garvey said is best. The most powerful resource that we have is eachother.
    Yes, I give to the homeless as much as I can. Standing in the rain or cold with a cup isn’t easy. They are not harming anyone and whatever “inconvenience” they may present (really the irritation to some that they can’t ignore the problem and the contradiction that homelessness exists in the richest country on the planet).
    Let me close with this
    ” There are shrill voices that seek to own the night. These voices roar a blood-oath of denial. They do not hear the soft sobs of mothers helpless to feed their suckling babes; nor do they hear the death sounds of the homeless cracking the empty silence of the night. They can not hear the wails of the poor ready to work for an honest days pay. These voices are eager to kill that which is weak and unable to protect itself. The justification is clear. Those who are unintelligent, weak, poor, unkept, crippled or marked by color, gender or unspoken preferences must be eliminated and thus there are shrill voices that seek to own the night and cast a shadow on all tomorrows. …
    Know this well! There are shrill voices that seek to own the night. Let them know it is not for sale”

    From Georgia Blues

    • Deep stuff! My head hurts! Damn!

  5. WOW!!!!!! When did compassion become a bad thing? I cannot improve on the preceding comments and don’t want to be redundant, so I will only ask that you ponder this:
    When we are called before our creator and asked did we help those in need whenever possible? Asked if we showed a kind spirit to others and were a positive force in the universe? I wonder if a response of , “well I helped others as long as I believed they were not in any way responsible for their troubles. People who I thought weren’t working hard enough I thought it was ok to skip them”. Will that be enough?

    Helping another is something you should do just because you can. Have you ever recieved grace from another person when YOU did not deserve it? Were you thankful for the kindness even though by your account it should not have come to you?

    Grace by defintion is a favor rendered by one who need not do so. And I am thankful whenever I receive it:)
    BEWARE – The perils of capitalism continue to distort reality and encourage us to shun those who need our help the most!!
    ……….Fluffy Strikes Again!!

  6. I dont have to read all the comments on this page because I spend my days providing goods and services in exchange for currency. That is what our world is built off of. so I will just go on record as saying that any comment that does not include the phrase “wow Malik, your 1000% right” was written by a moron. If you want to help the Homeless, give to organizations that help homeless people get off the street and train them for jobs. Or at least give to the homeless person that’s pumping your gas, singing songs on the train, or washing windows. At least they are providing a service. Giving money to people that are not even trying is doing them more harm than good because you’re perpetuating their current state. I give to organizations that help people that are really trying. Here is a good organization to give to, I hit them off everytime I make a come up and you should too if you REALLY want to HELP people (and not just SAY shit that sounds politically correct….)! http://www.kiva.org/

  7. As a Christian, I give because I want to help. However, I do not give to anyone who is not providing a service or a product. My $1 in the hand of a bum would be better served in the coffers of the local shelter or soup kitchen where I know they are doing something to help the problem. So instead of giving “spare change” for no reason, I give to organizations that I believe in to make a difference through the Combined Federal Campaign. So I can answer to my God and my conscience. But you have to do whatever makes you comfortable when Judgment Day rolls around.

  8. I’ve always loved Peter Bagge’s work. He’s the Gerald Celente of comics. The should of been, could of been. The numero uno to numerero zero. His work is crass yet refined. Intelligent yet still funny. He could take a back street abortion and make it appropriate enough to be shown on Disney channel. Hopefully adult swim will forgive his failed television pilot.

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