The Slice: If you must say ‘no,’ do it right

FRIDAY, MARCH 25, 2011

There’s no call to mock panhandlers in downtown Spokane.

They are all real people, some with sympathetic life stories. But even the ones who don’t have much to recommend them aren’t exactly living lives anyone would envy.

And so what if most of them are lying about how they intend to spend the donation. You think the rich and powerful have never lied about money?

But after a while, simply saying “No” to requests for spare change or an extra dollar starts to feel inadequate. So you might give in to the temptation to add a brief commentary.

Just remember. There’s a right way and a wrong way.

Right: “No, I’m not going to give you money. But I know a little about Spokane’s social service network. Can I assist you in finding help?”

Wrong: “This area was lifted up by miners, loggers, farmers and railroad men. Where do you imagine getting wasted on rotgut fits in that honor roll of achievement?”

Right: “No. But I would buy you something to eat.”

Wrong: “Young man, I’m sure you have nothing but disdain for me and every other Joe Citizen type you encounter. And I suspect that you imagine this sad little scam makes you seem bright and shiny in the eyes of your loser peers. You know, as if you are beating the system or some such nonsense. But I would urge you to look within and ask yourself one question: Is this really who I am?”

Right: “Not today. Need every cent I have.”

Wrong: “I’m not judging you. I have no idea what sort of start in life you had. If you’re struggling with mental illness or addiction, I’m sorry. And I guess giving you a couple of bucks might be the compassionate thing to do. But I have to tell you, I don’t feel like we have made an actual human connection here. This seems like a cheap con job. We both deserve better.”

Warm-up question: Whose desk or work station affords its occupant the most unavoidable view of co-workers’ butts as they bend over to sip from a water fountain?

Today’s Slice question: What movie or TV show took the most ridiculous liberties in depicting Inland Northwest geography?

Write The Slice at P.O. Box 2160, Spokane, WA 99210; call (509) 459-5470; fax (509) 459-5098; e-mail pault@spokesman.com. It was easier to dump Glenn Close’s character in “Fatal Attraction” than it is to leave some cellphone service providers.

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