Saturday, January 12, 2013

Teaching compassion in a crooked world

   He approached me while I was turned around putting the kids in the car. Darn! I always try to get into the car before a panhandler has a chance to corner me. I wasn't fast enough this time. He began his story...
"Sorry to bother you Ma'am, but my wife and I have been living in our car. We just need money for some gas to get to our home..." That was his story. I've heard lots of them...
"I got stranded  and need money for a bus ticket."
"My son's in the hospital and I need money so I can pay and they will let him go home."
"I'm hungry and need money for food"

The last one is my favorite, because I will buy someone food. But I will not give them money! I've offered to get food many times and every single time the person either declined my help or was not there when I got out of the store. I've also sat in my car and watched a man very deliberately pick and choose who he would solicit. He would let certain genders and races walk right past him, but let one of his targets get within a few feet and he zoomed in like a homing pigeon bound for home. 

Many years ago I was approached while Anna, then around age 9 or 10,  was with me. I bought the man a sandwich and a drink. When I got out of the store, he was passed out on the grass beside the parking lot. Anna began to hysterically yell, "He's dead, Mom! He's dead. He died from starvation!" To which I responded by showing her that his chest was rising and falling, so he wasn't dead. I had another errand to run and just to be diligent, I went back to see if the man was still there. I imagine I made a funny sight. I stood over the passed out man and timidly said, "Excuse me. excuse me..." But, to no avail, he wasn't budging. So, John, Jr. had a tasty sub sandwich and a drink. One time a man literally walked away from me as I was talking, when I offered to buy him something to eat.  No words of explanation just a " to the backside, lady, you're not worth my time".

I want to be the hands and feet of Christ, I really do. But, I also want to be a good steward to God and the money he gives us through my husband's hard work. I don't think it's fair that someone can lie and get paid for it. I also don't think it's fair that someone can make six figures by begging; relying on someone else's generous naivete.

Another thorn in my flesh regarding this issue is my kids, and the fact that they are almost always with me, and they are definitely always watching what I do and listening to what I say. For example today in church, Abbey made a toy telephone. On the way home, she announced, "I'm not talking to them they just want my money!" John looked at me for an explanation. I laughingly told him that I totally resemble that remark. Countless number of times I've looked at caller id on our phone and said, "I don't want to talk to them, they just want my money." So, I'm very cognizant of the fact that I'm being watched and sometimes even copied.

I want them to point others to Christ. I want them to know the satisfaction that comes from helping others.  I don't want them to be jaded and uncompassionate to those that are less fortunate. But, I also don't want them to be "taken" by every charlatan on every street corner.

So I have a dilemma.

My policy on buying someone food is my attempt to walk this road steadily. God tells me to feed the hungry, so I want to help those that are truly hungry. It's very hard to explain to my little ones why I don't give them money, without sounding pious and uncaring. I gently try to tell them the wicked facts that a lot of people aren't honest, while trying to not make my little ones less compassionate and jaded.

So...there's my predicament. Even the scripture isn't clear with directions...

If you mistreat the poor, you insult your Creator" — Proverbs 14:31, 

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed. Proverbs 19:17

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:38

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23

Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense. Proverbs 12:11

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23

I have no solution to the quandary of how to be compassionate in a devious world.  The only thing I know to do is to pray and ask God for discernment and continue to offer food to those who say they are hungry.

Maybe, just maybe, one day someone might actually be as they claim! 


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