DEAR ABBY: I spent the afternoon running errands. As I left the shopping center, I saw a young couple with a baby and a toddler holding a sign requesting help with food, as the husband had just been laid off. I drove past, then considered the children and circled back.
I had no cash with me, so I stopped and offered them our family's dinner -- a jar of premium spaghetti sauce, a pound of fresh ground beef, a box of dried spaghetti, fruit cups that my children usually take to school for treats, and some canned soups I occasionally have for lunch.
Imagine my surprise when the couple declined my generosity. Instead, the man strongly suggested that I should go to a nearby ATM and withdraw cash to donate to them because they preferred to select their own groceries and pay their phone bills. What are your thoughts on this? -- GENUINELY PUZZLED IN AUSTIN, TEXAS
What surprises me most about this letter, and Abby's response, and all the comments I've seen made on it in the places where people normally comment on advice columns, is no one seems to notice that she gave a family who's panhandling a bunch of food that requires a kitchen to prepare it. You can't assume that panhandles have a kitchen! Everything but the spaghetti sauce and the fruit cups is inaccessible without cooking equipment, and the spaghetti sauce and the fruit cups cannot be eaten in anything remotely approaching a dignified manner without utensils. (And that's before we even get into possible medical issues - if I were to eat enough straight spaghetti sauce to assuage my hunger, I'd require medication that costs $3 a day to keep my body from destroying itself.)
This family may or may not have been in genuine need, it may or may not have been a scam, and they may or may not have an actual home. But I'm very surprised that LW was so taken aback that panhandlers would decline an offer of raw meat that she felt the need to write in to Dear Abby, and I'm very surprised that no one else seems to have glommed onto this fact.