“Without being lead like a child”

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.

6 thoughts on ““Without being lead like a child””

  1. Another thought provoking post, Ariah. Thanks! I’ve commented on your posts on this topic before & know we don’t quite see eye to eye. However, I appreciate where I think your heart is in this matter. One of the reasons that I disagree is that I work at an organization that works with men struggling with homelessness and addiction. While I think you may possibly be helping someone to feel some sense of dignity when you give without judging I’m still not convinced. That $5 may make them feel better about themselves for the moment but it’s not a lasting respect. I’d rather give my money to an organization like the one that I work for that will give them opportunities to break their addiction, get their GED, access healthcare, legal aid, etc, etc. That’s the kind of self-dignity that lasts and I see it in their eyes every day.

  2. AWEsome idea, Ariah!

    It hits me right where i live, because yes, I’m one of those who feels i cannot afford to give money, and yet, if i examine how i spend my money, i am often spending on frivolous things.

    thanks again for being a kind of Good Conscience on the Net.

  3. Kate,
    I think your right in that there are many out on the street struggling with addictions and more. It’s great that you are a part of an organization that can offer much more help.
    For many people though, we aren’t structuring our lives in such a way as to be able to provide the many other things that person might need in the moment. I currently don’t live the type of lifestyle I would like to where I can meet this person on the street and leave everything to address their needs.

    I’d also ask you this though. Working with many homeless and addicted, you’ve probably learned pretty well what an addict looks like. Don’t you think when walking the streets you can discern fairly decently who might spend that money on drugs and addiction and who might not?
    Just curious.

  4. Yesha,
    Let me just say, I am so happy that you have started commenting! It’s such an encouragement to know you are reading and are being challenged. I’ll continue to write and I hope you continue to respond.
    May we continually challenge our frivolous nature and hold ourselves under the same measure we hold others to.

  5. Ariah,

    Thanks for challenging me with your response. Actually, I’ve learned the opposite – addiction does not discriminate and affects individuals of all races, ages, educational backgrounds, etc. Sure, you could make a stereotypical judement but unless they’re high or showing physical signs of substance abuse – how would you know?

    I’m a bit confused by your comment in the 3rd paragraph about structuring your life? There are organizations in every community that anyone can support. You don’t have to work at one of them to get involved finincially or on a volunteer basis.

    The intent of my original comment was not based on the concern about supporting addiction, it was concern about making hte most lasting impact with my $. If someone is not struggling with addiction, there are other needs that they may have,,, affordable housing (habitat, etc.), educational opportunities, etc. Supporting organizations that provide for these needs enables people in need to access these services.


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