I met a homeless man the other night who really touched me and challenged my thinking. I don’t walk around downtown much in the evening, but last night we did and ran into a number of folks asking for money on the streets. It was quite cold last night, and I hope they were able to sleep well at some point.
Anyways, after giving away all the cash I had in my pocket we ran into yet another gentleman and we stopped to chat with him. His words stuck in my mind, I can’t remember word for word but he said:
“I just want to have some fun, like everybody else.”
“…something to put my mind at ease; without being too specific.”
“…without being lead like a child.”
Have you ever thought about the message it sends to a person when you, based solely on your impression of them, treat them as unable to care for themselves? What does it do to an adult’s self-esteem when, at a difficult time in their life, they are continually being “lead like a child” to meet their needs?
I do understand that people have a true concern that giving money to a person on the street might end up supporting thier drug or alcohol habits. I’m not advocating support of those activities. A wise women once told me, “If I was out on the street and down on my luck, I might want to have a drink too.”
I almost feel like it becomes like Jesus with the women caught in adultery. “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.” Here it is: Let the one who has never spent their money unwisely, be allowed to never give any of it away.
This holiday season I’d like to encourage you to give the gift of mutual respect to the people you encounter on the street. Get a large amount of $5 bills (or $20). Write a note, a note to yourself and others about being a wise steward of the money you spend and not to waste it on unnecessaries when so many in the world are in need. Write that personal note and make copies of it. Get some envelopes and put one note and one $5 Bill in each. Put a bunch of those envelopes in your wallet. Now, anytime you or anyone who asks you is in need of some money, give them (or you) an envelope and remember to read the note before deciding to spend the money.
If someone chooses to by alcohol with that $5, it was their choice. If someone chooses to by a latte at Starbuck’s with that $5, it was their choice also.