Giving To People On The Street

I was with a group of people recently, and a ragged and dirty looking older man walked up to me and asked for some money to pay for his shelter and food for the night.  Immediately, a flood of thoughts and questions came to my mind:

  • Is this guy even homeless?
  • Is he just another one of those guys faking it to get free money?
  • If I give him money, is he just going to buy drugs or alcohol with it?  Do I let that control if I give or not?
  • How should I feel if I gave him money that enabled him to get high or drunk again?  Is that partially my fault?
  • Should I not give him money but offer something else so I can have more control over what he does with what I give him?
  • Should I just tell him no?
  • If I give him money, should I say anything?  If so, what should I say?
  • How much should I give to him?

I felt like I should give him something.  He asked for six bucks, and in my wallet I only had a one and a ten.  I hesitantly gave him the ten.  He told me “thank you” and “God bless”.  The walking cane that he seemed to rely on when he approached me no longer seemed necessary when he walked away.  Had he forgotten the pains in his leg when he walked because of his gladness of the gift, or was it the cane just a lie to generate more sympathy for him?  Did he use the money for the reason he asked for?  I’ll never know.

After the man left our presence, all of the people I was with spoke up and said that they wouldn’t have given him anything.  Many of the reasons were due to questions and thoughts surrounding the questions I listed above.  Everyone who spoke up  was a Christian.  Should this be surprising, or not?  Should this be the Christian’s mentality toward giving to someone who asks?

Giving to people on the street is a challenging topic because there really are a lot of people who are faking their condition, or homeless by choice so that they can mooch off of people willing to give them free money.  But there are also people going through really rough situations who are truly homeless and in need.  It is extremely difficult, if not impossible to know sometimes.  How should we handle this?  Should we give without question, or should we not give anything on the chance that the person asking does not genuinely need it?  What do you think?

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One thought on “Giving To People On The Street

  1. For me it’s about loving and giving to others. Definitely too many questions surrounding and too many folks out to mooch in the world but when I’m walking past someone who is displaying a need, I cannot judge if it is sincere or not, I can only respond as I feel compelled. For me that is usually giving a buck or two or buying something for them. What Keith and I have come to an understanding and belief on this is that we are not responsible for the outcome or what is done with what we give. Jesus asks us to love and give and to do so generously. We do that, and we are not responsible form there. We hope that it is used for needs, but no one can ever be sure. I give as I feel compelled, without worry about what will actually happen to that money. I also try to always ask the persons name or show an interest in more than just throwing them a buck.
    Often when we’re in a city, we’ll take a designated amount (usually about $10) as my “giving money” and I have it broken into ones but I use that for giving to homeless folks or sometimes it’s buying them a hot cocoa in the winter, etc. But I do believe in a small voice that compels me to give or an idea of what to give.
    I hate that giving generously as you did is so trivial and we spend more time on the what happens with the money than encouraging the person who is at the point of begging. Whether it’s a real need, a drug addiction, etc, the needs buried below that are so great.

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