• Cecil Lewis Jr.

The Panhandler

Updated: Jan 3

Things that make you go hmmm....

In American, people who beg for money on the streets are sometimes referred to, as panhandlers. There are a few theories of where this name came from. The name was used a lot during the depression years (referring to beggars), and it has been suggested that the name was derived in reference to people who would use a pan as part of the process of extracting gold from streams and rivers during the gold rush in America.

In the downtown area of Landshut, there is a small shopping mall that I often walk to, to grab some lunch or to pick up some groceries. Many times, when I go to the mall, I see a man crouched in the corner of a nearby building with his head bowed, holding a cup, seeking the kindness and generosity of a passing stranger to deposit some money into to his cup. On several occasions, I have reached into my pocket and grabbed some coins as I exercise a random act of kindness for the day.

He looks very frail and I assumed he had fallen on hard times and was probably hungry. So as I made my donation into his collection cup, I was hopeful this would help him to get a nice meal or perhaps help get some food for his family. I have seen a lot of panhandlers in the Detroit area, I also am keenly aware, that the money is not always used for food, but might be used for alcohol or drugs or some other unintended purpose. Nonetheless, just as many other people who passed by and dropped coins into his collection cup, I surely hoped our little token of support might help him in some way.

A few days ago, I saw this man strolling through town with his collection cup in hand. I assumed he had collected enough money to get himself something to eat. Then came the Hmmm! moment. As he strolled by, he did not walk into a café or a bakery. He walked into a Casino. Hmmm! Perhaps he was going inside to convert his coins into cash (German = bargeld). Just out of curiosity, I followed him inside the casino and watched him promptly deposit all the contents of his collection cup into the gambling machine and begin gambling.

For people who help others in this way, you can never know how the money is used. The gesture is still kind. I truly hope he won at gambling on that day. However, I am pretty sure that when you are gambling with money that was received as a gesture of kindness while panhandling on the streets, your odds of winning probably go down significantly. Oh well, just another lesson learned. Perhaps the next time I see him panhandling I will buy him a sandwich from the bakery, since the casino doesn’t let you gamble with food.

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