According to Sam and Jim Commenting on things that irk us off, make us laugh out loud or just seem too weird too believe According to Sam and Jim: How Can We Give Enough?

Friday, December 16, 2011

How Can We Give Enough?

Standing on the corner watching all the cars go by . . .

I saw a curious sight today. I was just telling Sam about it. I was merging off the I-5 freeway onto a busy city street when what to my wondering eyes should appear but a nice-looking, nicely dressed woman begging for money. The sight might not have been so startling because it seems like somebody is begging money at virtually every street corner these days and beggars are more numerous than Starbucks or McDonalds. But like I said, this woman was nice looking and nicely dressed and seemed pretty much out of place - even through her sign said she was homeless and had a child to feed.

The really strange thing about the whole scenario though was the fact that some guy in a Santa suit was standing right behind the woman, faced the other way, apparently oblivious to her, holding a sign that said “Merry Christmas” and waving to people driving by. I was tempted to put my window down and yell, “Santa, can you give that woman behind you a little holiday cheer,” but you know if you slow your car down too much in a situation like that you run the risk of being run over by an 18-wheeler (and eight tiny reindeer ?).

Anyway, I got to wondering – as I often do – when seeing that woman begging, what’s my obligation? Should I give her money? Should I give something to all the people begging money? Then I’d be broke. I always wonder, as I know many other people do, if the beggars are really legit. That is, are they really homeless and do they really need money or are they just scamming us? I can’t help but thinking that the answer is probably some of both and I hate being taken advantage of.

The question of whether to give or not to give kind of begs the question though that you see in Christian book stores, “WWJD” or “What Would Jesus Do?” For that matter, and to be politically correct, what does Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Taoism, Sikhism or Shinto say about giving?

I recall a wise preacher friend once saying he didn’t think it was up to us to decide whether to give money to a beggar based on the assumption he might use it for something besides basic food and shelter, it was just up to us to give. I suppose that should be a good enough guide for me. Still, I am reluctant to give money to beggars. I work hard for money. Besides, Kathleen and I give to the local food bank, to the local gospel mission. We’ve given money to several Roman Catholic charities and to the Red Cross for disaster relief, and to the Salvation Army (ring on oh pot ringers!). Nonetheless, I am constantly reminded, especially at this time of year, of Scrooge’s bad attitude toward the poor, “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” I hope I am not being a Scrooge when I don’t freely give to beggars.

It is so easy when one has gainful employment to say, “Why can’t those people get a job? But having chased jobs in the past and facing rejection time after time after time, I understand the helpless resignation that can drive a person to hang out on a street corner with a sign.

Sometimes I wish I had a heart like Mother Theresa and could just give myself to taking care of others, making sure they are fed and clothed and housed. The Bible does say the most blessed person is one who dies to save others. Unfortunately, I’m not ready to die. But it feels so powerless just to wish people could be taken care of. There seems to be so much need. You can never do enough.

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