“A Giving Lesson from Charlie Mahoney”

Personal finance expert Scott Burns’ grandfather was Charlie Mahoney, who had a problem with alcohol. Young Scott saw him only when he was sober; in other words, young Scott did not see him often. One sober day, Charlie took young Scott to Quakenbush’s, a big department store in downtown Paterson, New Jersey. At a side entrance, they met a man who asked, “Can you spare a dime for a cup of coffee?” (It has been a while since Mr. Burns was young Scott.) Charlie gave him two quarters. The man was happy and said, “Thank you.” Young Scott was surprised. The man had asked for a dime for a cup of coffee, and Charlie had given him two quarters. Why? Charlie explained,  “Because he didn’t want a cup of coffee.” So what he want?  “He wanted a drink.” Young Scott asked,  “So why did you do it?” Charlie replied, “Because it will get him through the day.” He then talked about two kinds of alcoholics. Some were like Charlie, who could be an alcoholic and yet hold down a job. Others were like the panhandler, who could not hold down a job. Charlie said that the panhandler would buy a small bottle of sneaky Pete, which is sweet cheap port wine that would help the man get through the day. In a column, Mr. Burns wrote, “I understood the lesson he was teaching. Today, some might consider me a ‘soft touch.’ If someone asks for money, I tend to give it. I know the money won’t promote world peace or eradicate poverty. It won’t help more people read and go to college. And it won’t improve inner city education, cure cancer, or bring the lost closer to God. But it will get them through the day. That has to count for something.”

For More Information: Scott Burns, “A Giving Lesson from Charlie Mahoney.” AssetBuilder. 19 December 2014


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