Until I was in about my mid-twenties, I stood by the attitude that anyone that was able to stand out by the road for ten hours begging for money, was just as capable of spending that time trying to get a job. I’m even guilty of letting a few people know that in my younger, less-seasoned years. I’m not sure exactly why or when my mentality shifted, but it did. I came to the idea that, as a Christian, it’s not my job to determine if the person asking me for money is an honest candidate for what he or she is seeking, or if they are truly a victim of a life tragedy. Maybe I only come into contact with one person in my entire lifetime actually is counting on me to feed them or their family, but if that one does find me, and I turn them away… I don’t want to live with that thought.
Today I was approached by a man walking his bike past the door of the restaurant that I was walking into. This isn’t a parable – it really happened, and it really happened today. He stopped me, complimented how “smooth” I looked, and then continued to tell me about how someone let him borrow the bike he was walking to go find food. He then asked if I could “spare any money” to help him out. “I don’t have any cash sir, but if you would like to join me for lunch inside, I would be more than happy to pay for you.” He politely agreed to my offer and told me that he was going to “go up there” to park his bike. I told him that I would wait at the door. I literally had my foot in the door of the restaurant holding it open, but the man disappeared around a corner in just a moment’s time, and I never saw him again. I walked around looking for him briefly and then figured he did not want my offer – maybe he wanted the money for other things. Maybe he was embarrassed, I’m not sure.
I still give irresponsibly to random people that ask for money from time to time, but I try to offer up goods or services instead to make sure that they are getting what they actually need and not using my resources unwisely.
I have also changed my mind about helping people on the side of the road, but only when my family is not with me. A few weeks ago, I offered a lady a ride that was walking down a 5 lane highway carrying a back pack and a two or three-year old child in her arms. She rejected the offer, probably based on lack of trust or the fear of not knowing me, which I figured would be the case, but I offered anyways. I have no idea what she was doing, or where she was coming from, but maybe just me stopping to check on her gave her a small bit of hope for the day. You never know.
I’m writing this for one reason, to share with people the transformation that I’ve had when it comes to helping strangers.
Be safe about it, and be wise, but try to put all of the reasons why you shouldn’t help someone to the side for just a moment. We all have places to be, and money to save, but you never know what that one person that approaches you has been through. Maybe they ARE lazy, and maybe they have created the mess they’re in. Christ did not categorize the people he helped, he just helped them. The majority of Americans are only one life tragedy away from bankruptcy. One major medical issue or death can destroy a person’s normal way of life. What if that is the person that approaches you? What if it really is somebody that is trying to feed their family?
Maybe you can’t help someone financially, or maybe you can’t jump a dead car on the side of the road, but don’t let opportunities pass by to help someone in need when you are capable. Maybe you can help someone find a job, or teach them how to work through an interview. Maybe you can give them clothes, or money, or food, or shelter. Maybe all you can do is have a conversation with them. Some people may just be dying (literally and philosophically) just to have someone ask about their life.
Too often we say “somebody else will help them,” when more times than not… that somebody was supposed to be you. Do not live your life filling it with ‘what ifs.’ Instead, be that somebody.[divider]
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