Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Servant or Sucker?

A homeless man sleeps in a doorway in central London June 8, 2010.  REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth (BRITAIN - Tags: SOCIETY BUSINESS)

So here's the situation-

I left city living about six years ago. Recently, I returned to Denver and found myself surprised by the large homeless population. Where did all of these people come from or were they always there, and I'm just now noticing?

Do you know I've never given money to anyone on the street? Not a dollar, not a quarter, not a dime...nothing ever.

As God is moving me to think about our giving as a family, I am thankful that I am forced to stop and evaluate my thoughts on giving as an individual.

Why don't I give to people on the street? I guess a part of me believes a lot of the homeless people I see panhandling don't need the money, and they are just trying to scam. A part of me thinks back to that time in college when my husband and his friends were robbed one late night in Chicago. A part of me worries that my giving is going to contribute to an addictive behavior or enable a person to stay on the street. I guess a part of me just feels better, safer, and cleaner when I cross the street and find a distraction so I don't have to think about a possibly awkward encounter. Then a big part of me wonders what I should say when my daughter asks why I don't give, and I don't have an answer.

This time when she asked I replied, "I don't know. Do you want a Jamba Juice?"


Rebecca Ramsey said...

It is such a dilemma. What do you do when you want to be generous and helpful, but you don't want the gift to be misused and harm the one you want to help?
I asked a friend who for years ran a mission to the homeless. She's written a book and video which I think is called Servant or Sucker (at least that's part of the title...I can't remember.) She suggested carrying McDonald's gift cards (or cards for another restaurant.) That way, you know it will be used to feed the person. You can buy them inexpensively-sometimes they sell coupon books, with coupons good for a free hamburger, etc.
Of course then you might be contributing to high cholesterol. :) Maybe give away apples? Just an idea.

And I understand about it being scary. If I feel too intimidated, if I'm unsure of the person's response, I don't invite trouble & cross the street. Helping is good, but your own safety is important too.

Amy Sullivan said...

Servant or Sucker? Yes, yes! Sounds like a good book. I'll have to look it up because that's exactly how I'm feeling. Where is line between Servant or Sucker? I like the idea of McDonald's gift cards. Thanks for the ideas.

lori said...

Nice to have you back from you trip! I've missed your posts. I hope you had a lovely time, my dear!

landryglaubemann said...

great post, hope to read more on your blog in the future.God Bless

Meg said...

I wrestle with this too. I really like Rebecca's idea of giving away some soft of gift card. That takes away the stress of feeling that they may use the money for purposes other than eating.

amy said...

I want a jamba juice. Actually I still call them juice club, the name they started out with. We moved to WA two years ago, no juice club...jamba juice. My kids and I talk about it all the time, how much we want one. My favorite, citrus squeeze. Delicious.

Ok, now on the real topic. I used to buy food for homeless people. If they were begging, I would go buy them a burrito, or ask them what they needed and buy it for them. With six kids now, I don't have the time. So if I give money I just pray and ask God for them to use it as they need. I figure He can take care of it!

Cassandra Frear said...

The thing is, there are a lot of scam artists on the streets. And a lot of people who use the money for drugs, alcohol, and other bad things.

But there are good groups where we can volunteer and give money. The Salvation Army is one. Red Cross is another. And there are street ministries.

My husband has gotten involved in a prison ministry which will help men lead productive lives once they rejoin normal life.

Amy Sullivan said...

Thanks everyone for the feedback and ideas!

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