I’ve never been able to form an opinion on panhandlers. While on a very basic level I just can’t embrace the practice of begging, from time to time I put myself in that person’s shoes. I think, if things got as bad as that, if I had to beg on the street to get someone to give me a dollar, I would hope that someone would give it to me.

This weekend, I was near the intersection of New Jersey and New York Avenues NW queued up with the rest of the cars waiting to get on 395 when I saw an unusual panhandler. While this is a very hot intersection for panhandling or selling flowers, bottled water, and batteries, one panhandler’s sign caught my eye. “Why Lie, I Need a Beer” was scrawled in black marker on his piece of cardboard. I rolled my eyes and kept going, but I saw some people giving the guy change.

Which got me to thinking. If I were on 18th Street and saw someone standing in front of Tryst with a sign that said, “I Really Need a Cup of Coffee,” I think I’d be moved. While I can’t understand needing a beer, I can relate to needing a cup of coffee, and I think I’d go in and buy the person a cup. But isn’t it the same thing?

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