Monday, August 24, 2009

SixPerspectives Topic: Do you give money to the homeless guy?

Each week, SixPerspectives has a new topic for discussion, and i often have the pleasure and privilege of sharing my perspective for the weekly submission. I have a hard time keeping my opinion to the preferred 150 word limit, so i have decided to expound here. Please check out SixPerspectives and read the other 5 responses submitted on this topic.

Topic: Do you give money to the homeless guy?

Well, I guess I have to ask, “which homeless guy?”

I don't have an absolute answer to this one.

As a Christian, I have a barrage of scriptures and scriptural principles banging around in my head, ”. . . do unto others . . .,” “. . . be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove . . .,” “. . . give to him to asks . . .,” “. . . be a good steward of the Lord's money . . .,” and so forth.

As a human being, I recognize that “the homeless guy” may or may not actually be homeless, may be about to spend my money on liquor or drugs, may be homeless by choice (those who choose to withdraw from society), or he may be someone just like me who had a bad run of luck and just doesn't know what to do but ask random strangers for money so he can eat.

But in that moment, that thirty-second window at the stop light, when I see said (possibly) homeless stranger at the corner hoping someone will drop him a five, I think the answer is “maybe.” It's really always a judgment call. And often it depends mostly on the off chance that I actually have some cash that can easily be handed out the window before the light turns green. And if he's selling something, not just begging for money, i'll gladly buy it if I can.

There is another variety of “homeless guy” who I would like to give money or food to but who will rarely accept it. This is the guy who most people have seen around town, walking here and there or riding a bike. Some of them have acquired an unofficial job taking out someone's trash or sweeping someone's floor and earning just enough to get them cigarettes and a combo meal every day or two. My husband and I will comment on them and give nick names to the ones who won't talk to us (just for our own personal reference). We'll notice when one of them acquires a bike and looks happy about his new, speedier method of transport. Sometimes they're slightly mentally disabled, functional but not comfortable with the “normal” way of things. I respect these guys, to be honest. I think they're exercising their right to live how they want.

Once I read a letter to the editor in a local newspaper, in which a woman was complaining about the population of homeless persons who had taken to camping in the unoccupied woods near the local library. She said that they should be “cleaned out of there” or something very similar indicating that they were dirtying up the place. This sentiment angered me. And I still don't understand it. I'm not afraid of homeless people any more than I am of the general population. And if they are not on private property and are not endangering anyone, I fail to see the problem. Homeless people are part of American society, like it or not. And a large percentage of them really have chosen to be homeless. For those who have chosen it and do not expect to be returned charity for laziness (not to imply that the homeless are necessarily lazy), I say let them be. I've certainly had my moments when the hermit life seemed very attractive. And feeling like being alone doesn't, in itself, make anyone dangerous.

Just one more thing. As to the guy who may be simply at the bottom end of a very bad run of circumstances, it has been my experience that he will eagerly make very good use of every drop of assistance you will give him. And when you see that the simplest act of compassion and decency has resulted in a man (or woman of course) who is back on his feet....well, if you gave to the drunk and the drug addict and the deceitful panhandler along the way....the people who made no profitable use of your outreach, it's o.k. The beauty of seeing a man, once humbled, now able to stand up on his own two feet and make a life for himself, is worth all of the seemingly wasted effort along the way. And it encourages me to once again to, ". . . give to him who asks . . ."

1 comment:

  1. I like your perspective ~ never thought of it that way!!


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