Usually, my response is to dig through my pockets and say, "I'm sorry, man. I don't have any change." (this is actually true ... I usually don't have any change). Sometimes, if I do have some change, I give him (it is usually a him ... very rarely a her) a few cents. Sometimes, I simply pretend that I don't hear him. Every once and awhile I just say "No" and walk on.
No matter what I do, I feel guilty. It eats me inside to see people living on the street, and it makes me feel guilty to purposely refrain from helping out. It makes me feel bad to ignore these people. It even makes me feel guilty when I give one of them something, because I don't know if the change is just going to become some sort of drug or liquor. Luckily I give them so little, that the amount of damage my money will inflict in drug or alcohol form is not likely to be very much.
Just like Jerry, I give money to organizations who help these people. For me, it is the Denver Rescue Mission and my church (different church than Jerry's). This makes me feel a little better. But, as Jerry points out... giving money is a way of replacing action with transference. I am paying someone else to "shine" for me. To be fair, these organizations need people like Jerry and me, because they certainly need money. But, if they had unlimited budget with thousands of people paying to help out... but no one to do the actual ministry, all that money would be worthless.
So, even filtering my money to hard-working organizations who are doing God's will, makes me feel somewhat guilty. Am I doing enough? Am I doing what God intends for me to do?
I think about the WWJD (What would Jesus Do) movement from a few years back(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WWJD ). Maybe this is still big, but I have not heard it quite as much lately. But if I ask myself, "What would Jesus do?", it would certainly not be to cross the street to avoid homeless people. It would not be to dig through his pockets and say "I'm sorry, I don't have any change." It probably wouldn't be to give the poor guy some change or even to give thousands of dollars to other people to help handle the problem. It may actually be closer to what Jerry did when he walked with the man to the coffee shop and talked to him... although I sort of doubt Jerry did it as well as Jesus would have (no offense, Jerry).
The thing about Jesus was that he always seemed to know the right thing to say. He always seemed to know the right thing to do. Probably being the only son of God helps when it comes to knowing what will help the most.
So, here, maybe is my problem: I don't know exactly how to help the man on the street. Heck, I don't even know if he really needs my help. I would venture that if he is asking for money from me, he needs some sort of help, but chances are he needs more than I know how to give. He needs motivation or he needs a job or he needs professional counseling or he needs God. Maybe he needs all of these. And personally, I am not sure I am qualified to help him with any of this.
So, maybe, it isn't all that bad that I am giving money to an organization that knows how to help homeless people. Maybe, in this case, leaving it to the professionals may be the best that I can do. I know I am ill-equipped to interact on a meaningful, helpful, follower-of-Christ sort of way. If I were to interact in an attempt to truly make their lives better, it is entirely likely.... maybe even probable that I would do more harm than good.
But that is basically saying "there is nothing more I can do", and that is a cop-out.
Well, of course, Denver Rescue Mission has a web page of "Ways to Help". They even have a list of greatest needs. On the most needed items page, there are a number of items they need, but they also need people to help: "Mentor Teams for Family Rescue Ministry ", "Tutors for Children and Men", "Male mentors", and "Christian Outreach Volunteers". Those are great opportunities to shine.
Of course, obviously, they do need money. Or, at least, they need the things that money can buy. And, of course, it isn't just the Denver Rescue Mission or City Union Mission who are helping homeless and who Do a google search of "Denver Homeless" "Donate" and you get pages and pages of results, so there are lots of organizations out there trying to help and they all need money.
The Denver Rescue Mission's donation page has radio buttons with monetary amounts listed like this:
- $27.60 to help 15 hungry, hurting, homeless people
- $46.00 to help 25 hungry, hurting, homeless people
- $64.40 to help 35 hungry, hurting, homeless people
- $82.80 to help 45 hungry, hurting, homeless people
I hardly miss $27.60, but it helps 15 people. In fact, in the 6 years I've lived in Denver, if I follow out those ratios, I've given enough money (to various charities) to help thousands of people, and I don't really miss that either.
But, is it enough? Should I give my time and energy and heart as well? The answer is "Yes".
Will I? I'm going to have to think about that.
By the way, right after I posted this blog, I went to Jerry's and added a comment to his. There was an Anonymous comment there from someone advertising an 800 # to connect with "Real Singles from your local area". In other words, his Blog got spammed! This just blew me away (although I guess it shouldn't have surprised me at all). What is this world coming to? Anyway, I just thought this was weird. Is this a common thing? (Blog Spammers?)