Charity does have its drawbacks

Published: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 04:32 PM.

I write about our Las Vegas trips but have never mentioned that among the sights and glitz there exists an ugly underbelly in plain sight. The overpass from Bally’s to Bill’s, and then on over to Caesars Palace, is a gathering place for all manner of panhandlers.

I ignore most as I pass, other than giving silent thanks for my extreme good fortune in life. Sometimes, I try to imagine what chain of events could’ve put them on this hot concrete bridge in 102-degree Vegas heat.

I’m certain none of these folks dreamed of holding signs and begging for money. Of all the silly college majors that are being born out of the self-esteem industry, I’ve yet to run into a BS (so appropriate) degree in panhandling, which seems to be a growth industry today.

Occasionally, I drop money into a can. Although I know most of this stuff is drug-driven, I pick and choose based on some ridiculous assumption I can mystically divine who among them is contribution worthy.

I feel for them, but charity is double-edged and should be directed toward needs rather than wants. If it’s too readily available, self-reliance dies. It can reward in the present but kill in the long-term.

There’s a reason the National Park Service admonishes visitors not to feed wildlife. If they get used to it, and you try to stop, they get mean.

Otis Gardner’s column appears here weekly. He can be reached at 

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