First I would like to premise this ponder with the info that I am not asking whether or not I should give cash to the needy on the streets. I have already made the firm decision to do so, years ago. So if you feel inclined to add your admonishment of why this is bad, please don’t. Besides, I think by now I have heard most of them, with the most common being, they will just spend it on drugs, why bother. My reply to that attempt to persuade would be, perhaps that escape is what they need the most right at that moment, and would my denial of aid stop them. Should I not have compassion, rather than be conditional when asked for help. Additionally, I have decidedly decided not to judge what I cannot know, and just maybe, this is the day a change of heart is part of God’s plan.
I won’t lie and tell you that I am not often terrified by the approach of strangers, but then again, I am terrified by people even walking down the same side of the street as me 😳 Also, I am aware that pan handling can also be used as a scam by people who have no real need. These scammers do not make me sad for the reason most would think, they make me sad because they can be used as an excuse to not help those that actually need it. They can give people a feeling of artificial self-righteousness and thus make them feel good about not helping.
One of the things that solidified my attitude towards giving was a conversation I had with the elders of my past church. It came about when one Sunday I had given money to someone looking for a hand-out in the church parking lot, and the elders were concerned. For did I not realize I was only encouraging them, did I not know that they would only spend it on drugs. Well, things got a bit politely tense as I declined to agree with their point of view, and as we volleyed opinions, one small bit of our exchange stood out, and has stuck with me. For when told it was only acceptable to give food not money, my response was that if it were possible to carry around an endless supply of sandwiches I would, and I would give them money too, in the hopes that they would eat the sandwich, rather than trade or sell it, on their way to buy some of what they were actually begging for, a fleeting moment of tranquility and escape. Needless to say I was eventually forsaken by this church, for other reasons though.
Okay, all this self indulgent back ground to get to the point of my ponder, which is can you give too much at one time? It came about because I was approached, while walking home the other day, for train fare to get back to the shelter in LA. This is easy enough to do. I try to carry small bills with me to meet such requests. It just so happened that on this particularly day it was raining and getting very cold, (it snowed in the foothills that night) and the man who asked for train fare had somehow lost his shoes the night before. So as we walked and talked together, I offered him the rest of the little bit of money I had on me, to see if perhaps he could find an inexpensive pair of shoes at the store we were approaching. Well that was enough money to wet his whistle, so shoes became an after thought for him. He was honest about it as he tried to justify his choices to himself, and apologized for his demons before we parted ways. I just hope he saved enough to get on the train and make it to the shelter. He would have been better off without my good intentions I think.
Thus I am in a quandary. Should I stop giving beyond the initial request, because with my limited resources, I cannot follow through to a place of equilibrium, and I can see how too much of a good thing is not always a good thing…..sigh
P.S. I can see how this can be interrupted with disfavor on my former church, but it is not intended to be. They are a church full of kind and loving people, and I ponder whether their close association with intellectualism has drowned the unconditional compassionate illogicality of feeding someones destructive needs. However, I will always be thankful for the firm Biblical foundation I have been provided by them. It was what I desperately needed at that time of my life, after spending years smothered in fluff. So I guess what I am trying to say here is, I don’t judge this small and lovely church for their stance, for their mission seems to be the feeding of the Word, and a good job they did of it too.