One thing I hate about having switched pretty much entirely to an all debit card/no cash way of conducting my life is that I never have a few dollars to spare when down-and-out people on the streets and highway offramps ask me for money.
I know that many of these people just use the money to feed their addictions but many others are legitimately cold and hungry. And who am I to judge? If you’re desperate enough to be a beggar on the streets you deserve my compassion, not judgment. I always think, “what would Jesus do if confronted with a beggar in rags asking for even a dollar?” I also always think about Henry, who ended up in some desperate straits in the last weeks of his life. What if it were my son begging on the streets for money to buy a Subway sandwich? Would anyone be kind enough to roll down their window and offer him $2.00? I hope that they would.
I do also try to give each beggar whom I encounter information on where to find the shelters in Knoxville but many of them, by virtue of where I live, are twenty or more miles away from the nearest shelter. Plus as more than one homeless person has told me, shelters can sometimes be scary and intimidating places where they are forced to proclaim certain religious beliefs in order to stay there and/or they have many of their meager belongings stolen. Sometimes, however, they let me drive them to one of the shelters.
Don’t get me wrong, our homeless shelters are a critical part of the tattered safety net that we offer our homeless neighbors but I do also understand why a particular homeless and hungry veteran with no legs, begging from his wheelchair at an interstate offramp 25 miles from the nearest shelter might not be inclined to try to make his way to that shelter.
But anyway, I hate never having cash to share with beggars now that I do almost everything with my debit card. I think I will begin pulling a small amount of cash out of my account each week and keep it in my car for these encounters. I think it’s very important for my children, who are often with me in the car, to see me showing compassion in a tangible way – even if that’s only offering $3.00 in quarters to the homeless guy at the stop sign.
What about you? Do you choose to give a few dollars to down on their luck people whom you encounter or do you turn away and pretend not to see them? How do you handle these situations. Let’s talk about it in the comments below.