Be Careful How You Answer The Question “Can You Spare Some Change?”

Yesterday as I walked to the teashop in my little hometown I passed a young man on the sidewalk who asked me the question, “Can you spare any change?”

Without thinking about it I immediately said, “No, sorry.” And I moved on by as quickly as possible.

The instant the words were out of my mouth I realized I had made a mistake. I felt my body tighten. I felt the heat of the lie I had just spoken. And I felt the constriction of the message I had just put out to the Universe.

Let’s explore this from a Law of Attraction perspective for a moment. The Universe can’t tell the “truth” from a “lie.” Those words have no meaning to the Universe. Rather, the Universe responds to the thoughts, words, feelings, and vibrations that we put out.

In this case I was putting out all of them – thoughts, words, feelings and vibrations – that carried the message “I don’t have any change to spare!”

Is that a message I want to broadcast to the Universe? No way! Because if the Universe hears me say, “I don’t have any spare change,” how is it going to respond? It’s going to respond by giving me what it thinks I’m asking for: in this case no money to spare!

Did I have change in my pocket? Yes.

Could I have spared some or all of it? Yes.

Did I? No.

But that’s not the point. And this is not about whether it is “right” or “wrong,” “correct” or “incorrect” to give or not.

No. The lesson for me, and the point of this entry, is the importance of being aware of our conditioned, unconscious responses to questions such as this. Because these reactions and the thoughts, words, feelings and vibrations that accompany them are what mess us up in our work with the Law of Attraction.

If you live or work in a big city, how many times a week are you asked, “can you spare some change?” The way you respond to that question has a huge influence on how the Universe interprets and co-creates your relationship to money.

As I reviewed my response to yesterday’s exchange I am amazed at how powerfully those five words – “Can you spare some change” – influenced my thoughts, feelings and vibrational offering.

I immediately went into a defensive reaction. I closed up and protected my space. It reminds me of that old Bugs Bunny cartoon – yes I’m dating myself here – where Bugs and one of his buddies – the duck maybe – found a vast treasure. Immediately the friend’s eyes got big and he went into a mantra of  “It’s mine, all mine!”

It was quite eye-opening to observe that same reaction – perhaps not to quite an exaggerated level – in myself. And even more enlightening is the sobering awareness of how easily I can be knocked out of a state of deliberate creation and into a place of reacting from past conditioning.

So how do I move forward? What learning do I take with me from this experience?

Well, first, I will set my intention to be more aware of these conditioned reactions. I will increase my alertness and hope to catch these reactions earlier in the process and ideally, before I actually voice the reaction to the Universe through thoughts, words, feelings and vibrations.

And in dealing with the question, “can you spare some change?” I will make some very specific changes.

First, I will do my best to stay present in my inner experience. I will not be in a rush to remove myself from the situation. Instead I will stand in the experience and make a decision based on my feeling in the moment rather than in my defensive, conditioned response.

Second, if I choose to give, I will do so with joy, not from a place of obligation or guilt.

Third, if I choose not to give, I will respond with honesty saying something like, “I choose not to at this moment.” Or, “I’m going to defer making a decision about that for the moment.”

And finally, no matter what my reaction and choice in the moment, I will do my best to offer a silent blessing and appreciation to the person asking.

And so I will end this entry with a silent blessing and appreciation for the young man on the sidewalk yesterday who has provided me with this wonderful opportunity to awaken a bit more to one of the ways in which I am still living by default.

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      11 Responses to “Be Careful How You Answer The Question “Can You Spare Some Change?””

      1. on May 2nd, 2007 11:32 am

        Love your observations here, Edward!

        And thanks for your alternative responses, I think they make a great takeaway for this article.


      2. Grant Pierrus on May 2nd, 2007 12:46 pm

        I was thinking about the same thing the other day. We had a lady come to our gate asking for food. My immediate reaction was similar to yours, as we have it often. I then gave some thought to what I was telling the universe. I think you share a great solution to this.


      3. The Bloggard on May 2nd, 2007 7:42 pm

        For 20 years I lived in San Francisco, near the Haight-Ashbury. I got spare-changed most days as I walked around, by both the regular and the occasional spare-changers. This is their “job.”

        On the one hand, I didn’t really want to give them money. I chose to keep it.

        However, on the other hand, I didn’t feel that I needed to lie to them either.

        Finally, I discovered that what worked great for me was to smile at them and consider them as somebody who had just said, “Hello!” in their own special way.

        And therefore I would smile broadly, and say “Hello!”

        And that seemed to do the trick.

      4. How to Tune a Human » Blog Archive » Spare Change? on May 2nd, 2007 8:20 pm

        […] blog that I enjoy is called “Evolving Times,” and recently the writer described the situation of being “spare-changed,” on […]

      5. Lynne Morrell on May 3rd, 2007 5:48 am

        Love this post. I really appreciate your idea of offering a blessing to the person asking, no matter what you decide.

        I used to live in a town near Santa Cruz CA. There would be different people at the door of the grocery store asking for money on a regular basis. I usually had my sons with me and I wanted to teach them that folks need help sometimes…and we could help if we felt inspired. So, I would by food in the store for them. The boys enjoyed giving them our blessing and off we would go.

        If we chose not to…I would say “Not today” and give them a smile and an internal “good vibe.”

      6. molly on May 3rd, 2007 9:13 am

        I don’t live in a big city, but I love to visit them. When I do, I make it a habit to start out the day with a dollar’s worth of quarters in my pockets. As I accumulate change throughout the day I drop it in my pockets as well, and when I’m asked if I can spare some change, I can honestly say yes and give some away. The amount is small enough that I don’t even notice (esp. since I’m usually on vacation), and it helps me appreciate the fact that I can afford to take a nice vacation, or that I have a good job that sends me to neat places like Chicago for training (back when that was the case).

      7. Edward Mills on May 3rd, 2007 9:33 am

        Great Comments Everyone. I love the different approaches to this common and sometimes confusing situation.

        Bloggard. The way that you shifted your perception so that whatever they said to you registered as their way of saying “hello” is great! It allows you to engage and connect in a non-defensive, non-judgmental way.

        Lynne. I love that you have used these situations to teach your children the power of unconditional giving. And I also love your simple and honest response when you do not feel like giving: “Not today.”

        Molly. I like that you go into the city specifically with a desire to give away spare change. You prepare for that and bring a positive intention to your interactions with the people you meet on the street. It feels like a very powerful and positive way to connect and to empower your own expanding abundance.

      8. Janice on May 6th, 2007 4:37 am

        Hi Edward

        A thought-provoking post.

        Living in a city where everyone is always rushing (myself included), I never really give it a serious thought that whenever we unthinkingly just walk past or said “No”, we are also sending this message out to the Universe. Thank You for the wake-up message.

        I’ve just been exposed to the Law Of Attraction, watched The Secret DVD just 2 weeks ago. It really transform the way I think.

        In a recent report of an interview given by Bob Proctor, he also said that if we’re in a negative vibes, we’re going to attract bad situations and uncomfortable circumstance. But if we’re in a highly evolved positive vibes, we’re going to attract positive things… so now I’m tried my best to be constantly aware of my thoughts, especially the subsconscious ones.

        Lynne and Molly, great inspiring actions on how to handle such situations.. will bear in mind as well on how I can do the same.

        I’ve also started to do Blogging and realize there’s a lot to learn in the Blogosphere.. so apologies if my comments seem long-winded

      9. Dean on May 6th, 2007 11:21 am

        Hi Ed,

        Nice post.

        Here, in San Diego, I see more people on the streets at freeway off-ramps with signs asking for money. I used to ignore these people since I felt that I could barely take care of myself, how can I help someone else. I also expereinced conflict because I always give away the old kids toys at Christmas time and clothing to Salvation Army.

        Then I read about “seed money” and learning about appreciation and gratitude. My car has a little tray that I keep change in for giving away (or use when buying food in a drive-thru.) I feel good when I do give some “spare change.”


      10. Janice on May 7th, 2007 8:31 am

        Hi all

        By the way, here’s a personal experience and reflecting on this experience, and knowing about LOA now, I wonder how this situation should be handled… Experienced LOA practitioner, share your thoughts so I can learn from you 🙂

        I visited a small province in China with my relatives and upon touch-down, we were swarmed with beggars on the streets, asking for monies..

        The tour guide hurried us to a waiting bus coach.

        Beforehand, we were told not to give any monies to them ‘cos if you given monies to one, the rest will swarmed to you asking you for the same too.

        So we hurried to the bus coach, and hopped into it. Some of them were angry with us for not giving them what they want that they spit on us. Lucky, the bus windows are shut… but it was quite a scary experience at that time as a kid

        That said, it will not stop me from re-visiting the country with its rich history and culture behind it

      11. Edward Mills on May 7th, 2007 8:51 am

        Hi Janice

        I think it really doesn’t matter if you give money or do not give money. What matters is how you feel. Giving money from a place of fear is just as bad as not giving money from a place of fear. It ultimately comes down to bringing awareness to your thoughts and feelings in the moment and doing the best you can to feel positive about whatever choice you make in the moment.

        It’s interesting that the memory of your experience in China came up around this issue. You may want to do some exploration to see how that experience may be influencing your beliefs around money.

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