Panhandling: an awesome message for the kids

I’m preparing to celebrate my 30th birthday, so it’s been a long while since I was in high school.  Maybe I’m out of touch; I don’t spend much time at the mall, the box social or where ever the devil the children are spending their times these days.  [Note:  Go to the head of the class if you spotted a Family Guy reference just a few days after slamming Seth MacFarlane for calling Americans stupid – in my defense, I’m at least referencing a good Family Guy episode] But when I do grownup chores like grocery shopping, this is my interaction with the kids.  And why not?  We’ve all got to eat, don’t we?  But the kids aren’t there to shop; quite the contrary:  they are there for your money.  And they aren’t selling anything, they’re panhandling.

Awesome, you say?  No, no.  It’s the worst possible message to give to the kids.  “Hey kids, if you want something in life, just stick your hand out and wait till somebody comes along and makes it all better.”  That’s just terrific.

But I’m not without heart or soul – I may have messed up one or the other on my journey to age 30, but I’m not without sympathy – or skills.  But hold that skills thought for a second; what would I be sympathetic toward that I would condone children panhandling for?  Pretty much anything besides what I’ve seen kids panhandling for in the last 5 years.  It’s always a trip; these kids want to go somewhere for some reason, and its never a good one.

My current nemeses are in the persons of the Hackensack (that’s New Jersey – see Superman:  The Movie)  cheerleaders.  They’ve taken over the local market, who I assume has shamefully allowed (although I have to admit, it’s hard to say no to kids) them to stalk (or block, truth be told) the entrances and ask for money so they can go on a trip.  To Florida.  To compete in a cheerleader competition.  If you give them money, they give you a lollipop.  There is definitely something unsettling about a bunch of lollipop chomping teenage girls asking you for money.

I asked around and it turns out, the kids don’t call it panhandling – they call it canning.  Get it?  Because you take an old coffee can, cut a hole in the lid for people to put money in it and you’re all set.  Congratulations on that advancement.

I guess times have changed.  Back in the 90s, when we wanted to go somewhere, we sold stuff.  Door to door, if necessary (it’s called ‘cold calling,’ kids), which is actually kinda dangerous, now that I think about it.  But primarily, we had a car wash, sold candy, Christmas wreaths, grave blankets (cheerful, holiday fun!), cookies, wrapping paper, shoveled snow, raked leaves, mowed lawns, something, anything rather than just shaking people down.  Sure, I was in groups that went on trips to compete in sporting or musical events, but we paid for it with some kind of work, by selling goods or services – I even got a regular job dishing out ice cream during the night and on weekends.  But the Girl Scouts – wow, they had it going on.  They had a product everybody wanted (cookies) and then took their money and flew to Arizona to volunteer their time to work with special education programs.  A far cry from cheering for a trophy in Orlando, wouldn’t you say?

Maybe I’ve gotten old.  Maybe kids shouldn’t trust anyone over 30.  But kids, if you’re going to ask me for money, don’t shout, don’t block the entrance to the store I’m trying to go into, and most of all, don’t tell me what you’re going to do with the money.  Just sit down quietly at a table and tape a piece of paper with the name of your school/organization to the front, put out a bucket, smile and say thank you when I give you money, and that’s it.

Or get a job.

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of, and editor in chief of

Posted on August 9, 2010, in observations and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Kids who panhandle for afterschool spending money are obviously a spoiled lot. They don’t deserve any bit of your money. Just some cruel sense of irony I guess, from my side of the world, the kids here panhandle out of despair and starvation.

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