The Street Beggars: Do You Give Them the Money?

On a sabbath Jesus went to dine
at the home of one of the leading Pharisees.
He said to the host who invited him,
"When you hold a lunch or a dinner,
do not invite your friends or your brothers or sisters
or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors,
in case they may invite you back and you have repayment.
Rather, when you hold a banquet,
invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind;
blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you.
For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." - Luke 14:12-14

This is tough isn't it?  Jesus' words in today's Gospel is telling us to open our homes to the poor, crippled, lame, and blind.  I think anyone worth their salt would gladly help anyone in need ... short of opening their home.

I have other issues with this Gospel.  We've all seen the men or women on the entrance ramps or busy intersections with the sign and the forlorn face.  Sometimes I see other drivers giving their change.  I hesitate because at one intersection, I saw my neighbors' son.

His parents both work and they have a house.  He has a brother and both young men have been in special needs schools all their lives.  Mom could be seen over the years buying from the local drug dealer.  Now one or both boys accompany their mother when she makes her purchase.

When I'm approached, I usually just smile and shake my head.  I feel bad.  "There but for the grace of God, go I," I think to myself.  I say a prayer under my breath.  "Lord what should I do?"  I don't always get a clear answer.  Sometimes, I grab the loose change and give the person that.  But most times ...

It's tough not to get the picture of my neighbor's son, tucking his sign in his shirt, walking away from the intersection and then pulling out his cell phone as he walks home, out of my head.



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  • It's good to be cautious. If their sign says that they are hungry, then you could always use the Chicago Shares as an alternative to cash, which can very easily be traded for drugs. I'm cautious when I see a new beggar on the street--are they going to use it for alcohol, cigarettes, drugs? Or are they trying to get something to eat, and perhaps save up for a cheap motel room when the weather gets really bad?

    But after a while, if they consistently show that they are not drunk, stoned, or showing aggressive behavior, then I will give them money. I forgive cigarette habits, though--it's a hard addiction to quit, and often takes money to quit. Sometimes I don't have change on hand, so I'll duck into the closest Subway (or even McDonalds) to get some $5 gift cards for them. Or if I have food coming home from the store or leftovers from a restaurant, I give that to them, too. I don't have much money being a student, but they have even less.

    Sometimes when I see someone who is shoeless and his feet are mangled from years of hard street life, I'll duck into a Walgreens to get some socks and sandals, and bandaids.

    Sometimes I give Chicago Shares, but I never remember to buy more. Once I gave one of the Shares ticket (worth $1) to a scruffy looking beggar, and he really verbally shook us down because he didn't want that, he wanted CASH! I just kept walking, and whenever I see him, I never give him any more assistance. The truly homeless are grateful for even just a quarter, and will readily accept food.

    Even if you don't have any money, stopping to talk with the regulars lifts their spirits, and lifts mine, too. My husband and I made friends with a guy, and encouraged him to get a library card. Then some weeks later, he proudly showed off his new library card, and it's helping him apply for jobs. He eventually was able to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend and his children, and moved back in with them.

  • In reply to Holly:

    Excellent suggestions! I always seem to run into the more belligerent of the street people, but I like your ideas and will keep those in mind.

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