Minneapolis is home to an enormous homeless population. On any day that isn’t below 15* F or above 110* F you’ll find men and women begging at the corner of every off ramp downtown.
Cardboard in tow, the requests are nearly always the same.
- Homeless, anything helps
- Stranded, from Texas, need help
- Will work for food. God bless
- Everyone has been down and out. Could you help?
- (And my favorite) She had the better lawyer!
I don’t know any of them from Adam. They have names, and family (somewhere), and people who care about them. They are people. But I don’t always treat them like that.
See, I’m affluent. I am not only in the top 1% of the world’s wealth (you probably are too), but I’m in the top 10% of the top 1% of the world’s wealthy. I have a home, two cars, food, health insurance and a retirement plan. This is not a brag post. We’ve worked hard to achieve this life. We got help, yes. A lot. But with family and friends support Robyn and I went from living below the poverty level at the beginning of our marriage to being well taken care of. Thanks to God, and thanks to chance, and thanks to opportunity, and thanks to hard work.
When I see the poor, the powerless, the lost and lonely; I am prejudiced. Why don’t they work harder. Why don’t they get a job instead of begging.
Don’t judge me.
You’ve done it too.
We, as a whole society, arrive at the red light and don’t look these humans in the eye. We don’t. They need a buck, we have it, but how often do we give it?
Truth is, I don’t keep cash. And I’ve personally witnessed my money given to a “hungry” homeless person turn into alcohol. One time when I had cash I offered a begging gentleman to either buy him a whole meal with drink or the $3 in my pocket. He chose the latter.
It’s hard not to have a prejudice when your good will turns into an abused substance to fuel an addiction. This caused Robyn and I to decide to give differently. No cash to beggars. Instead, we buy boxes of granola bars to hand out. More often than not the bars are gone. They get passed out quickly.
Today was the same story. I had no granola, and I don’t give out cash. But the kids and I, on our way home from a picnic with friends at a park, had some cookies left over. I offered the man at the corner of Dowling and Highway 94 the bag of cookies.
He looked at the cookies and…
He belly laughed!
He was so tickled to get a bag of treats. His laughter was disarming. He saw my kids and said, “Oh, I don’t need the whole bag. Keep a few for the kids.” (What the heck! This beggar just gave my kids cookies that I had just given him!) What is wrong with me that I live with a prejudice and yet the needy sees the joy that comes from a cookie and wants the child to receive that joy. (They will, after nap time).
I asked him, as he kept chuckling, if he was having a nice day. He said yes, but his response caught me off guard.
“Cookies are fantastic,” he continued, “It’s so nice to get good food. Money is great, but I love getting bottles of water. Sometimes a bottle of water is better than a $10 bill.” Toothless and still giggling I was baffled by him.
The light turned green, I said goodbye and headed home. While driving off, being convicted of the sin in my heart, these words came to mind,
“Give to the one who asks you,
and do not turn away
from the one who wants
to borrow from you.“
When was the last time you felt like you’d rather have a bottle of water than $10?
Today? Yesterday? Never?
With my mind and perspective renewed, from my homeless neighbor and the Holy Spirit, I have a new resolve to be prepared to give to those in need. This summer I’ll carry bottles of water in my car. I encourage you to do the same or something similar. Find a way to get past everything that is the way of obedience to Jesus’ command to give when asked.
You’ll never know when that bottle of water is worth more than a million bucks to someone in need.