I was pretty sure that entering this world of Foster Care would give me a greater understanding of the marginalized in our community. I knew it would give me faces to pray for and stories to file away.
What I didn’t realize was just how jaded my heart would become- and I’m ashamed to admit just how quickly that happened.
Once I started realizing and keeping track of the vast array of resources available to individuals in our county, I was overwhelmed by the reality that people choose not to use them.
I didn’t know that there was a whole local homeless community that has no desire to find a permanent home. They are perfectly happy to check into the shelter on occasion, rely on the kindness of individuals on street corners and “camp” indefinitely. And why not?
“I can make at least $200 on a good weekend.” -S
A few months ago I was putting the kids in the car and watched a gentlemen get out of his truck, leave his significant other in the car to look at her phone, pull out a sign and a chair from the bed and sprint over to his corner to start his “shift.”
I was brought up with this idea that you don’t give people money that you don’t know. They’ll use it on drugs, they are just trying to trick you, they are better off here than in most of the world- don’t feel so bad.
The other night I stopped by the store real quick for a few things- lunchmeat and bread. A gentlemen came out of the corner and gently asked me if I had any money. He was with a friend. It startled me. Naturally, I said “no sir, I don’t have anything to give you” and went on inside.
It was kindof a lie though. Since we started our Living Well Spending Less Challenge I’ve had all sorts of random money end up in my wallet. And it doesn’t really disappear if all you buy is lunchmeat and bread.
I wrestled a while as I walked through the store. It’s getting cold. They ARE sitting in front of a grocery store. I’m sure they could use some milk or apples or bread. They’ll probably just buy cigarettes. I wonder what kind they smoke? How much extra do I really have?
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” -James 1:26-27
This question was posed in one of my studies: “If you discover that you have no restraint on your tongue, no compassion for the needy and are polluted by the world what should you do?”
Probably not do those things.
Compassion is defined as “concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.” Concern. Not judgment. Not critical of how needy they may actually be.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing” -Luke 12:22
With all this fresh in my mind I took out some extra cash, walked over to the mysterious shadowy corner and handed it to my new friends.
I have some leftover. Use it for a good breakfast ok?
I felt this annoying sense of… well.. nothing.
After I walked away I heard a squeal of delight and watched them walk inside right to the cigarette counter.
See? I told myself. See, they were just bidding out their time until a sucker came and bought them some cigarettes. They didn’t deserve that. They should get a job. They could get a job. They could walk over to the food bank like two blocks away. They chose not to. They took the easy way out.
I got into my car and drove away. A little mad at myself, a little bit mad at society, a little not sure why this time I gave someone actual cold hard cash.
It hit me before I got home.
You’re right, they didn’t deserve a penny.
You don’t really deserve any of it either.
I wish I could say that I’m proud of this whole story. But it took me way too long to get there. The next day I was furious at my husband for wasting a perfectly good turkey sandwich. I found it on the counter. Uneaten. He had gotten lunch out at work instead of eating the bag lunch he brought.
I knew he had a crazy long day and didn’t have time to put it in a fridge somewhere. I know he went to lunch with a client. Yet, I was still mad. He deserved better. It was just a sandwich.
“For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.”
It’s more than the money. It’s more than the food and the coats. It is most definitely way more than whether or not they deserve it in the first place.
Concern for the misfortune of others.