We had stopped for a cup of tea. I was comfortably in place and about to take my first sip when I was approached by a tall tired looking black man who asked me for some change in order to get a sandwich. I virtually never have change as I always pay by debit, but I do carry $5.00 Tim’s cards so that he could go and get a coffee and something to eat when he wanted to. I told him where the Tim’s was in the mall and he nodded a thank you and then continued along the tables.

Most people politely refused him, a few gave him change, but then he hit a table with two women, both white and both looking quite wealthy. One of them, and I know you will find this hard to believe because we did and we were both there, refused to give him change but then set about telling him how he could improve his approach to people for money. She instructed him on the etiquette of begging!!

She told him that he should approach with a friendly smile.

She told him that he should always thank someone who gave.

She told him that if someone refused he should just say ‘thanks anyway’ and move along.

She adopted the attitude of helpfulness.

This was all happening behind me and I had to turn. I watched him stand there patiently, knowing she was not going to give him any money, and let her lecture him on the basics of asking for change. His patience with her was extraordinary because I found myself wanting to butt in and say something but I also knew it would be unwelcome by both of them.

He was handling the situation.

He didn’t need another person doing something for him when he was dealing with it himself.

When the lecture was done, he set off, went to a table or two more and then started down the elevator. He saw me and pointed with a question mark on his face, and I indicated that yes, Tim’s was straight ahead. He nodded thanks.

I nodded back.

Sometimes doing nothing is doing something.

That goes for both him and me in that particular situation.