You hear the poor calling out to you from the sidewalks when they ask for spare change, but are you really listening? Do their needs and feelings really matter to you? I'm from a small town which makes it difficult to care about this sort of thing because it doesn't happen very close to home. Even for people who come in contact with the poor asking for their help find themselves unwilling to give. If you see pan handlers every day, you start justifying your decision not to give. You might say something like: "He put himself in this situation!" or, "If I give her this money, she will just go score drugs with it." If this line of reasoning isn't enough, selfishness is always a good excuse not to give. We may even say something like "I can't give this man any money! I have to buy myself lunch today!"
Sometimes we don't offer our spare nickels and dimes because we think we are doing it for the greater good. For example, we don't give because we assume that a homeless person has a drug problem will spend the money on alcohol or drugs. Is this an excuse to not give? How do we know if every single homeless person has a problem with drugs or alcohol? I'm inclined to believe that this is just a poor excuse for us to keep our money in our pockets. What if a guy or gal was simply just down on their luck and needed our helping hand to get them back on their feet? Acts of kindness and giving mean so much more than the gift. They can restore someone's faith in humanity.
When I'm giving a gift, I don't want to give my gift with restriction. I want to lend with the same freedom that God gives to every human being to choose between what is right and wrong. After all, what I give is a gift. It belongs to the person I'm giving it to not me. It is up to the recipient to decide what to do with what I put in their hands.
I could see the dilemma if we started giving an alcoholic whiskey; or, if we offered heroine to a user. But when we give what is asked of us, we are not putting the bottle in someone's hand or helping them find their next score. We are giving each asking person a new opportunity. We don't take responsibility for what happens after we render what is asked of us. If a homeless person would choose whiskey over food for the day, that's his own choice, but at least we did our part to help!
Sometimes we can't always give money. In this sort of situation, we can give our time which is the best option in my opinion. I went to the National Youth Worker's Convention
in Cincinnati a few months ago. I was there with a group of youth workers from my church and we were walking down the streets of the city. We made plans to go get some ice cream and just hang out in the ice cream shop. We wanted to talk about experiences and ideas we had on the trip that we could bring back to the church with us. Suddenly, we noticed that our friend Jarius had left us.Jarius is a guy who is kind of big and intimidating with a manly beard. He's not very articulate. On top of that, he's smelly and messy. In fact, he could pass off as a homeless man in Cincinnati . Regardless of his unkempt ways, he's got one of the biggest hearts in the world.
After a very short time of searching for Jarius, we found him sitting with a homeless man down the street. The two of them were just talking. It was very sweet. He called over to us, saying that he would catch up to us later. For 15 months prior to our trip to Cincinnati, he'd been unemployed. Jarius didn't really have any money to offer this man. But Jarius gave the more precious gift of his time and the man was very grateful. Jarius caught up with us at the ice cream shop and with money that his mom gave him for doing chores, he got the man some ice cream. At the time, Jarius didn't know that the man was diabetic. But the man shared his ice cream with another homeless person and they were so happy and thankful. Jarius' gift paid off.
When I go to Chicago or Cincinnati, I am normally "too busy" to sit and talk with homeless people. But Jarius taught me a lesson. He cut out his time to spend it with a homeless man just to say, "Hey! What's up?"
I'm trying to think more like Jarius did that day back in Cincinnati. I'm trying to be more sacrificial with my time, my money, and my belongings. After all, none of it really matters. Most things are here today, gone tomorrow. And I can't take any of it to heaven with me anyway...What do you think you have to give to someone in need? Are you willing to give it up if you had the chance? What other ways can you challenge yourself to give? If you looked at every poor person as one of the least of God's people or as God Himself, would you give a little bit more next time?