Walking home from Cup O’ Joe, the sun was shining; I was in a great mood; I’d just had coffee with a really good friend.
As I was passing St. Mary’s Church, a homeless man asked me for change. My usual response is to avoid eye contact or say “I’m sorry.” This morning was no different. I quickly walked past him like he was invisible.
But I was so disappointed in my response that I turned around, went back and said, “Look I’m going to give you a dollar. Would you please spend it on food?” And I went on to tell him that I loved God and that I hoped he came into better circumstances.
The whole time I was talking he had this dazed look on his face like he couldn’t quite take in what was happening.
I turned and walked away and his parting words to me were…
“Do you have a $20?”
And I thought, well Nancy so much for your noble gesture! Did you really think you could make a difference in this man’s life? Did you really think this time would be different? How many times have you been told not to give money to people who beg and how many times are you going to be taken in?
While I’m quite sure that giving out some spare change rarely brings about a life-changing experience for someone deep in poverty or that I would be better off directing them to a homeless organization, I don’t ever want my heart to get that hardened.
Instead, I want to use discernment and discretion. Sometimes perhaps I will give; sometimes offer a kind word; hand out a card of a homeless organization that can help; and sometimes wisdom will have me continue walking.
The lesson for me today was to really open my eyes and stop pretending that what I do doesn’t make a difference. Giving money may be the least of the best options. But I took time, I looked into his eyes and I told him I loved God.
That might not have been life changing for him, but it will never cease to be life changing for me.