I had a very interesting run-in with a homeless person today. Actually, I am realizing that it happens a lot in a city. :)
The encounter occurred while I was putting gas in my car. A gentleman kept walking around the car... as though he were a bird, circling his landing, trying to see what all was around before approaching. It was kind of cute actually, he was obviously a shy type, and wanted to come in slowly, as to not scare me. Thoughtful guy I thought.
Anyways, he approached me and asked me if I had any spare change for food. Of course, my immediate reaction was the thought, "food... right...", and at first I got a little miffed - did he really think I was that gullible, to fall for money for "food"? (I am so ashamed that this was my very first thought). But then I looked at him for a minute. Usually I use the line, "Actually, I don't have any cash on me, I'm sorry" While this line is usually true (I just don't carry cash anymore), I knew it would be a lie, as I did actually have a few dollar bills.
I realize how wrong my heart was. Why was I so hesitant to help him out? Sure, I thought he was going to probably go buy cigarettes or something else with it instead of food -- but was it right for me to withhold help because of my distrust of the stereotype?
After giving him a couple dollars (he was so sweet and gracious when he accepted it), I went on my way to grab lunch before heading back to work. But I kept thinking about it. I have no idea who this man is, what he did, his situation, or his heart. But he came specifically to me for help. You know, I could do a lot of things to prepare for this since I know it happens often. I could put some food in my car to give to people, some bottled water, something to help out those in need without handing out cash. But, I didn't have that at this time. I was told by many growing up, "Help when you can, but NEVER hand out cash - you're helping them destroy their lives." I understand this mindset, I really do, but I have to question it. Yes, it isn't the best form of help, but where is my heart in it?
God is CONSTANTLY trying to pound it in our heads throughout His Word that we are not obligated, but COMMANDED to help those around us in need. My heart wanted to help, but was considering witholding the only thing I had to give at this time because I didn't want to be that "chump". He was standing there asking for help for food. Suddenly, I realize that it was about my pride that kept me from wanting to hand him cash. It wasn't all about him making mistakes what he would purchase with it. So, lets go with the worst case scenario. Lets say he would use it for drugs, cigarettes, something less 'wise' then food. Or, perhaps he lied to me, and really wasn't hungry, but was desperate for something else. Maybe my money just got him deeper and deeper in a fix.
It is not mine to fix. All I can consider was that in that moment, I needed to make a decision about what would show God's love more brightly, more beautifully. How could I help show the love God gave me to him? Goodness knows I take God's love so many times and try to use it for my own gain and glory. Yet... He still goes on giving and loving me.
I hope to get to the point of constantly carry some granola bars or some sort of food and water around with me. Yes, sometimes just handing out money is not the wisest thing. Sometimes, it is all we have on hand. Sometimes, perhaps "no" is the best answer - I am not the Holy Spirit for others' hearts and minds. (Thank goodness... what a mess THAT would be...) But I do know that I need to help. Maybe volunteering time, giving to a fund, or just handing out to random people that need it. Jesus is so clear with this in the New Testament, and God's heart to the needy is all over His word. Love your neighbor - Be a light to the World - "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" How little I take this to my heart.