Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Always Give: A Question
There's a homeless man who panhandles at the intersection I drive through right before I get to work each morning and I don't know what to do.
He holds up a sign that says he is a veteran and then makes a reference to God. I always look away before reading the whole thing. But I see God's name there. Big letters.
It's getting really hot out there. 115 last week. (I mean, seriously.)
Over the years I've intellectually come to the conclusion that if I give money away to someone who is asking for it, I have no right to bother myself with what he/she does with it. I say "intellectually" because I have NOT come to that conclusion emotionally. If someone with a gold chain and a starbucks latte is begging for money downtown, my heart sneers. Are you kidding, guy?
And if someone looks, I don't know, out of it? My wallet tends to stay closed, too. I don't want to buy your drugs or your beer or your afternoon at the adult book store.
But blessed are those who are taken advantage of, I think. Get your face slapped. Give your tunic, even if they only ask for a cloak. If your brother asks for a dollar, give him two and spare no thought to what he's going to do with them. I think God asks only that we give. Actually, I know God asks only that we give.
Yesterday I had finished my run at the gym (it gets so much harder as it gets hotter out, even though the gym is obviously air conditioned. My body is just TIRED in this heat.) and I was stretching in the crowded little "STRETCH!" area of Planet Fitness when I kept hearing this annoying sound. It sounded like someone about to sneeze, or maybe trying to get the attention of their friend on the next machine or something. Like a little yelling noise. I started the typical dialogue in my head of 'geeze that's rude, can't you see people are trying to work out, etc. etc.' (I am much more short-tempered when I'm sweaty and tired; sorry about that) but then as I looked around, I realized it was one of The Girls.
The Girls are a group of three adorable ladies with Down's Syndrome. They are in the gym just about every day I am, which makes me wonder if they aren't there every single day. They work hard on the ellipticals and then they go lift weights together. And they always hold the door for people when they're coming or going.
Instantly upon realizing that the noise was coming from one of The Girls it stopped bothering me. I understood. Well, maybe not understood, but I wasn't mad. I'm only mad if I think the perpetrator knows better. What does that mean about me?
I tell that story in connection with the homeless man because it's unfair of me to assume he knows better, or anyone knows better, or that he's perfectly able to get out of his situation. He doesn't have Down's but maybe there's something else. Maybe he doesn't work because he has a debilitating depression. Maybe he doesn't march down the street into one of the steel plants and apply for a job because he's been convicted of multiple felonies. Maybe he stays in the Phoenix heat because he has family here and can't bear to leave them. How do I know?
The most frustrating part of this situation - though I am certainly not presuming this is more difficult for me than it is for him - is that I don't feel right giving him something. I can't figure out why, and so I don't know if I should trust it or not. I've given money to people pandhandling before. Lots of times, actually. I used to buy lunch a lot for a woman who hung out with her shopping cart at the library. It's not the money, really. I just don't feel right about it. Something feels off. Could that be God, or could it only be me?
Do you give to everyone asking? Have any advice? I'm open...