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No matter how minor 0

Dear Bradshaw,

My new approach to philanthropy got off to a bad start last week. While passing a guy huddled against the wall of a building with a plastic cup in front of him and a carton of wine on the ground, I offered a packet of peanuts. He was emaciated, as skinny as a stop sign, and holding a wine-filled cup in his hand, so I was astonished when he said no thanks, “No, grazie!” Of course, maybe he hates nuts or has a terrible allergy to them but still I found it ironic.

Days later, a man hobbling on a stick approached me as I was munching on a piece of bread. He smiled, asked for change, and I saw silver bridges framing what was left of his two front teeth. I had a paper bag in my hand with a second loaf of bread inside which I had bought ten minutes earlier from a bakery around the corner. When I held up the bag and offered him the bread, the man’s smile vanished and he looked at me with wrinkled forehead and squinting eyes. I thought he was going to beat me with his stick, but then he nodded his head and said okay, “Va bene.”

Later that day, I encountered a man who was sitting on some newspaper outside a pet store with his back against a tree. Seeing me coming, he pressed his hands together as if in prayer and pleaded for change. When I pulled out the peanuts, his eyes widened and he said, “Sì!

Overall, people have been grateful for the peanuts and I feel better giving food. As there are fountains all over Rome with drinkable water flowing all day every day, I think these people need food more than anything else even though, as I understand it, there’s a law in Rome that obligates restaurants to serve a plate of pasta or rice (basically, a first course meal) to anyone who claims to be hungry and unable to pay. Regarding blankets, sheets and pillows, there’s always someone who’ll give a homeless person stuff like that and, besides, there are humanitarian organizations like St. Egidio that provide such materials and other services.

Of course, I know I’m no Mother Teresa or Mahatma Gandhi. I just hope to make a dent, no matter how minor, in the lives of those who need it. In any case, it never hurts to try, right?

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