We have all seen them, and had mixed reactions to them. The people that stand on the sidewalk, or on the intersection to the highway, and beg for money. Some have missing teeth, some have ratty clothes, some have great clothes, some are very tanned, some just look filthy – and out there they all stand in the sun, rain, snow, sleet, and wind. They’re like the mailmen of beggars.
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these beggars
from the swift approach of their appointed vehicles.”
Some people say we shouldn’t give them anything, because it only encourages the behavior. Some other people say that they are all con-artists, and we should completely ignore them or report them to the cops. Still others say that they are just drunks or drug addicts, and we shouldn’t feed their addictions. I, believe it or not, used to be one of the people who thought that way.
However – someone changed my mind.
I was sitting and eating lunch with a small group that I used to call “my ladies”. It was a small group of women, all whom had children as old or older than me, that I had lunch with on a daily basis at one of the districts where I worked. They were an absolutely delightful group of women, and I dearly miss our daily conversations now that I’ve moved on. However, one day we were speaking about the people who beg on the side of the highway, because in the “Big City” nearby, it was incredibly common.
I remember being fairly negative toward them. However, one of the women spoke up – an amazing Christian woman – and she said, “I don’t give to them all the time – but I give to them every time that I can.” I stared at her with my mouth gaping open.
Finally, I had the bravery to ask her, “Why?”
She explained that she did not feel that it was her place to judge them. If they are scammers, then they will get their judgment in the future. God will judge them for their dishonesty, and people will judge them when they find out – they will be arrested, no one will give to them any longer, they will be forced (one way or another) to change. She said that she was unwilling to take the risk of someone truly needing help being passed by with nothing, because of the dishonesty of others.
She also posed the question – what if it is God standing there? What if he is testing us – testing our compassion for others? What if we fail? What if he is knocking, and we are not answering?
Revelations 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”
So, I changed my point of view. Now, I don’t always give them money, though I did today. Often, I give them food. I get an extra burger or an extra burrito if I am getting myself a meal or snack, and I give it to them. One time, I gave a man a whole meal – burrito, chips, and a drink. Sometimes I have nothing to give – but I try to dig something out anyway. As with “my lady” that I mentioned earlier, I cannot always give – I do not always have something TO give. But I give often. I’ve been rewarded with the following experiences:
A Woman and Her Child:
There was once when a woman and a child were sitting on a bench outside a restaurant. As my husband and I passed by, the woman spoke to him in Spanish, asking for money. All we had were twenty dollar bills at the time. He glanced at me, I nodded, and he passed one over. They waited until we left, and then we watched them from inside the restaurant. The woman gathered her child into her arms, and rushed across the street toward the grocery store. Satisfied for the time, my husband and I got our own meal and munched it down. When we came out, the woman and the girl were back on the bench, but they were no longer begging. The little girl was holding a fruit drink, the woman had a water, and they had the fixings for sandwiches spread out between them. Peanut butter and jelly for the young girl, and some meat and cheese for the woman. We smiled, waved as we past, and then went home.
A Man at the Stop Light:
I’d watched a man at a stoplight. He’d received nothing for a very long time, and it was incredibly hot outside. And I mean… reaching above the hundreds hot! He was sweaty, he was dirty, and I imagine he was frustrated. (I happened to stop at a restaurant right near by, so I was able to watch him for a sort time before going a round-about way to join traffic again. Gotta love the big city!) In fact, he seemed to be getting some pretty nasty looks, too. I ended up passing by him once I got to the street, and I opened the window to pass a five dollar bill out to him – I figured that he was right beside McDonald’s. If nothing else, he could get a meal, if he needed one. It was getting to that time of day. I then watched behind my car as he went to the others – three more cars behind me gave him something. A couple bills, and some change. I thought to myself, “Is giving as contagious as smiles are?” I don’t think I’ll get the answer to that one, but I was glad to see the man get SOMETHING.
A Man Off The Highway
This particular man had been begging in my little town for quite some time. His teeth were rotting out of his head, he had a dog, and he said he was trying to get somewhere. He was always polite, even when he was getting nothing – and really, he seemed fairly harmless. The pack he carried was large, and as I’d seen him sleeping before, I knew that all it really held was a ratty, old, and dirty sleeping bag. One day, when I was getting gas at a local station, I noticed that he took his hand off of his stomach any time a car passed by to hold up his sign, but the second the street was empty again, he had his hand back to his stomach. As this is a small town, and the people did see him on a daily basis for quite some time, he probably wasn’t getting much of anything from anyone. So, when I went in to pay for my gas, I got the man some food. There wasn’t too much available, but I got what I could, and I went and delivered it to him before driving off. I have never, ever seen someone thank another person so many times in the span of about 30 seconds before! By the time I’d gotten into my car and driven out to the street, half of one burrito was gone, and I’d gotten him two.
Man in KFC
This one was unusual. The man wasn’t outside, he was inside. He’d hidden himself at a table in the corner to get some warmth, because it was very cold outside that day. We didn’t have any cash – or, at least, not much. My husband intended to pay for what we were getting (it was when my grandfather died in December, and we were getting food for the entire family) with a credit card. He had three dollars in his pocket, though, and that is what he handed over. The moment that happened, the KFC staff kicked the man out of the restaurant.
We thought this would be the end, but it wasn’t. There was a Wendy’s right across the parking lot, and that’s where the man bee-lined. Next time we saw him, he had a couple of their dollar burgers in his lap as he sat on the curb of the sidewalk, and he had mayonnaise on his cheek.
Now, I don’t want you to get me wrong here – this is not a “pat SJ on the back” sort of post. That’s not what it’s about. I just wanted to share a few experiences with you because I felt truly blessed by them. It felt good to help someone else feel good. To help someone else get a meal. To give someone else a reason to smile.
It did not take much time. It did not take much money. Goodness, I can do without the Marble Slab Cheesecake ice cream I would have spent it on, anyway – my waistline says so.
If it was someone who needed food, they were able to get some. Maybe not to last a lifetime, but enough for a meal. If it was someone who was truly in need, then at least one of their needs was fulfilled. I can’t do everything, but I was able to do SOMEthing. Something is more than nothing. If lots of people do something, there will be less who do nothing – and that alone makes it worthwhile.