A dirty, shaggy person with a plastic cup huddles in the cold, looking for handouts. They are viewed as the dregs of humanity by those fortunates who pass by. Who will come to their rescue and what does this say about us?
Now I must confess, whenever I drive past one of these unfortunate souls, I have no idea what to do. I try to distract myself so that I don't have to think about them or their situation. I don't want this image burned into my mind, to flash back into my consciousness at a later moment to make me feel guilty or anxious. In a different set of circumstances, could this be me? Several times I have had to stop at the red light at their intersection. Dang, why couldn't those other drivers hurry up so that I could get through? I felt so awkward. I sensed that they could interpret my thoughts and turmoil. I tried to seem busy, maybe playing with the radio knobs or fiddling with the papers in my briefcase. The instant in their presence just seemed to drag on and I was burning to just get out of there. One time the folks in the car in front of me offered a few dollars to one of them, but the light had turned green and they were holding up the line of traffic behind them. I know that I was grumbling to just get moving. Anywhere but here. Please let me escape this torture. I wish I knew the right thing to do. I remember that when I got home, I spent some time in prayer for the person and also some time thinking about my own shameful behavior. I felt tortured? Really? What about their existence? Now that's the real tortune. That's the real pity.
Sometimes I think to myself that I don't need to worry about giving to different causes because I already give to my church. I know they help support some local charities. In fact, I know that I have purposefully not considered giving directly to the homeless because I reason to myself that I already give to the church or that dealing directly when them is not a safe thing to do. Perhaps the real truth is that I don't want to give directly to those out on the street because I don't want to get too close to them, to face them, to experience them, to catch what they have. Giving to the church and rationalizing is so much cleaner and easier. No awkward moments and, ultimately, no real effort or danger. The words of scripture from Matthew 7:2 read "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." I have a long way to go so that when God calls me to step up and help others with joy and enthusiasm and generosity, I can be like Abraham and say "Lord, Here I am." A wonderful posting on kencollins.com urges us:
So I exhort you now, while there is time, to plan for good memories, to store up treasures for yourself in heaven, by serving the beggars whom Jesus sent as your teachers, so that when that inevitable day arrives, the angels will exalt as you ascend. And Jesus will greet you, saying "Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter in the joy of your master."
(Part 3 of 3)