Ugh! This was a very difficult lesson to learn. In spirit, I had no problem giving money, but in reality, it was often an emotional struggle. One time at the Frankfurt Bahnhof while waiting for a train, a woman came asking for money. I gave a euro or two. I did my part. But then she asked for more and eventually began pulling on my arm in a way that felt like she was demanding more money from me. I got angry and threw some pennies to the ground and telling her to pick them up if she wanted. I felt terrible by my action but did not have a clear idea of how to do things differently.
There were times in my life when I was more graceful. One Christmas when living in New Mexico, I invited a homeless person to join my family for dinner. We had a thirty-minute drive. On the way, he asked to stop at a liquor store since he knew I did not serve any alcohol. My wife and kids and I listened to his story as we ate. Afterward, I drove him home. It was a small contribution, but one I made with grace and gratitude.
There was the guy sitting in front of the Heidelberg post office asking for money. I gave some. This was his spot for years and every time I walked past, he asked for more money.
Found it all so frustrating.
My friend Reshad talked about giving money to homeless people in one of his classes and suggested a kinder approach, but it was still not ideal. Then I read an interesting book, Money is Love, by Barbara Wilder, which helped me soften my approach. I came to understand the reason for my agitation and how I can do things differently.
The approach had to do with equality and recognizing the soul connection. I noticed when I gave money to a homeless person, I felt I had more and they had less and were poor. With this imbalance, it would be better to not give. The goal was to see this giving and receiving as an equal exchange. My ability to give is a blessing when the other person received it. Putting this idea into actual practice took some effort.
Through trial and error, I came with an approach that works for me. First, it to decide if I want to give. If the person asks, I generally give something. Some people wanting money sit with a hat or cup to receive. Instead of just dropping the money into their cup, I stood to hand them the money. When they looked up, I thanked them for receiving the money. I saw their role of receiving as equal to my role of giving. This gave me the feeling of being authentic, loving, and grateful.
I have not perfected this approach, but it feels more aligned with a loving heart. As with any new habit, it takes practice linked with my commitment to recognizing the other person as an equal. And to avoid any hint of being better than them.