I have become accustomed to giving these individuals food or water, if I have it. There is one man who stands outside of Target, for whom I buy popcorn and sometimes a soda. One time he joked with that me "all he needed now was a good movie"! I've also mentioned before how one time I even gave an angel a bottle of water. I by no means feel guilted into giving to these people, nor do I feel as though it's a good deed that I can check off my list for the day. What I feel is compassion...and thankfulness and gratitude. As I sit at the stop light in my newish car, with my trunk full of groceries and money in my wallet, on my way home to my little white picket fence life and family that loves me, I am overwhelmed with the realization of how abundantly blessed I am.
I have no doubt that many of these individuals have ended up in their current situation because of decisions they've made and paths they've chosen to take. However, I know that I've made bad decisions and that could just as easily be me. But by the grace of God, there go I, right? Many regular, upstanding citizens feel that the homeless have made their bed so now they have to lie in it and don't really deserve to be helped because of their bad choices. But I am forever grateful that God didn't leave me to lie in the bed that I made. I'm so glad that He bestowed much mercy and compassion on me and did not give me exactly what I deserved, because the only one thing that I deserve is punishment for my sin.
I do believe that some homeless beggars are just unwilling to work and don't desire to have a job. They are perfectly content to scrounge by on the generosity of others. However, one thing I always come back to in my mind is that if they did want to work, I can imagine the loss they feel as to where to start. Before Alex was born my career was in Human Resources, so I know and understand what it takes to get hired and keep a job. First come the you need an interview...an interview that requires a shower, a nicer outfit, a clean-shaven face, a resume... Not to mention that if you do get the job after an interview, you need consistent, reliable transportation so you can show up every day, you need references, you need a social security card, identification, a home address and phone number. Unless you're working under the table, even if you flip burgers at McDonald's or pick up someone's trash these are all things you need to be gainfully employed. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it wouldn't be easy and I believe every bit of overwhelming.
Scripture commands us to be generous and to put our faith into action, but I don't believe that every single person has, or should even feel, an obligation or responsibility to give to the homeless. I don't even think there's anything wrong with you if you can drive by them and not think twice. However, I am compelled to look them in the eye and share a smile and a bottle of water, an orange, or a bag of popcorn. For me, it all goes back to the fact that without Christ, I am that beggar stinky and dirty from my sin. Hungry, but not having what I need to be filled. But God in His loving-kindness cleansed me white as snow, clothed me in mercy, and filled me with His righteousness. And if I can demonstrate even one iota of that kind of mercy to someone that most would deem as "undeserving", it gives me great joy to do so. Because I am that undeserving.
At the close of class today, a quote by C.S. Lewis was shared and I turned wide-eyed to Aaron and said this is exactly how I feel! And he smiled and said, "I know you do."
"It will not bother me in the hour of death that I have been 'had for a sucker' by any number of imposters; but it would be a torment to know that I had refused even one person in need!" CS Lewis