The opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and not of The Davis Clipper.
Earlier this month a reader wrote a letter to an Ogden newspaper encouraging Utahns to ignore street beggars, partially out of fear that their begging was a scam. Other readers jumped in to label the man as uncharitable and judgmental.
I’ve heard the arguments before and I’ve paid little attention С until last week.
I was eating breakfast at a Salt Lake diner when a man walked in and approached the cashier. The man wore torn clothing, mumbled incoherently and appeared to be the poster boy for the desperate and destitute. The cashier quickly escorted the man out of the restaurant.
Minutes later, however, a middle-aged woman entered the diner with the same man.
“I would like to buy this man a good breakfast,” said the woman. She held out a $10 bill. “This should cover whatever he wants С bacon and eggs or whatever С and should allow for a tip as well.”
The cashier called for the diner’s owner, who placed his arm around the woman and said, “I appreciate what you are doing and it’s very kind of you, but this man is not allowed in the restaurant. At best, I can prepare the breakfast in a take-out container, but he’ll have to eat outside. I hope you’ll understand.”
“I don’t understand at all,” said the woman. “This man deserves to be treated like everyone else. Just because he is poor and doesn’t speak English very well, he should not be disrespected.”
The owner gave a long explanation. Due to its location, the diner attracted homeless people who would use the restaurant’s bathrooms for drug use. Customers complained; these “undesirable elements”, he said, made customers uncomfortable and made a mess out of the bathrooms.
“You see my point?” he asked.
The woman said she didn’t, but requested that the man receive a breakfast “even if you are making him eat outside like a dog. You are a poor example of what Christians should profess at Christmas.”
I would not want to walk a mile in the beggar’s shoes. Neither would I want to stand in the shoes of the restaurant owner. The woman had a moral point, while the owner had a diner to operate. I admire the woman’s benevolence, but I also sympathize with the businessman’s plight.
As I left the diner, the owner told me, “I’m sorry you had to see that. I’m not uncharitable, but if I let down my guard on this guy I’m afraid my restaurant will become a haven for illegal stuff. You understand?”
I said I did. We are all asked to make judgment calls and we have to live with our decisions. Sometimes we feel defeated.
Several hours later I passed a Salvation Army bell-ringer. Normally I find a few dollars to deposit in his pot. I remembered the incident at the diner and took a $20 bill from my wallet.
And I vowed to hug my wife that evening and give a prayer of thanks for a home to come home to.