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Wednesday, December 13, 2006


I got this in my inbox today from someone with many years of urban experience:

I almost never give to someone I don't know - don't want to participate in their pathology. Now work is a different matter. I'll hire a wino to do honest work and pay him an honest wage (that's not always easy to measure) and what he does with his earnings is up to him. At least it's an honorable exchange. But a smile and a wave-off is my normal response to beggars. What would Jesus do? Maybe He'd quit His day job and hang out under a bridge and start a church there, I don't know. What I do know is that one-way giving almost always is unhealthy. Unless there is reciprocal exchange, there is something fundamentally demeaning, degrading, and eroding of human dignity.
I hate beggars at this point. I hate their aggressiveness, I hate that I don't know how to respond, and I hate the lies they tell. My friend Andy bought a sandwich for a guy on Sunday and the guy got pissed because Andy didn't buy him chocolate milk as well. It's a frustrating part of living in the city. As a Christian, I want to be compassionate etc., but my idealism has been eroded by years of lies and ingratitude and now I find it virtually impossible to muster anything but anger and disgust.

How do you handle beggars?

1 comment:

Erin said...

I've been thinking a lot about this post. In one way I haven't much right to comment, as I don't have to deal with agressives. But I'm going to anyway.

So, in random order, what came to mind:

-I understand that dealing with people lying to you all day long is hard. My mother was a border officer for twenty years. She met liars in every income bracket, every religious affiliation, every race. She was lied to all day, every day. It does something to your soul. But I don't think the poor corner the market on it.

-many homeless/beggars deal with mental illness. The state they're in is the state you get.

-giving only when it's a fair trade for labour is completely counter to Jesus teaching on taking care of widows and orphans (and by extension, those who are unable to care for themselves). I don't recall Jesus ever instructing us to employ widows and orphans. If we only help those who are able to provide for themselves... physically and mentally capable of doing a day's work, we miss the message of the gospel.

-it's not easy. Period. When we give to people who make it difficult, we can be sure in our hearts that we're giving out of love for Jesus, and not because we want to use the other person for a 'feel-good' fix.