I recently moved to a big city area for a while and have been in the city on the weekends touring various sites. The cities are DC and Baltimore.
I usually take the metro when I go into downtown DC and I frequently witness the lesser of our society in all kinds of ways.
I can recall my first time using the metro to go to DC, a homeless man in a powered wheelchair came up to me and my friend and started talking about how someone robbed him of his $14 while he was sleeping. I believe he was a veteran and he wondered if my friend and I were military because of our short haircuts (we are not), but it was a good conversation. A bunch of thoughts were racing through my head while he was talking, since I was trying to figure out what to do. I wanted to help. I offered him food and asked if he was hungry, but he said he had some food and didn’t need any and that he didn’t want any money nor did he want to ask us for any. He then went on to say he was just trying to find the good in people and that he couldn’t understand why someone would rob him of all people.
He then said “God Bless” to which I replied the same to him and he was on his way. Please keep this man in your prayers.
Ever since then I’ve been on high alert and almost actively sought out looking for the homeless in the sense that I would not be caught off guard or passive if I encountered someone while in the city.
I can recall another encounter where a woman was going from train car to train car asking for money while holding a sign with a picture of what appeared to be her children and writing that she needed money. She seemed rushed and almost systematic in her way of going through the whole train, getting off at each stop after offering a general “God Bless” to everyone in the train car and then running up to the next car while the train was stopped at the platform. For whatever reason, I couldn’t feel up to giving her money. Maybe it was because I didn’t sense a genuine need? Her way of collecting money? Not being able to stop and talk and listen to her? I don’t know, but remember this woman too please in your prayers. Was I wrong to think this way of her?
Approximately a month later, I saw this same woman doing her thing while on the metro. This time I was prepared and when she came to me I smiled and looked at her eyes and said I would be praying for her, to which she hardly acknowledged and continued to make her rounds.
Another time this man was standing near the base of the escalators down to the platform and seemed to be rambling about how he needed some money for the metro or something. I couldn’t make him out clearly, but now that I think about it, if that was the case, I’m not really sure because he was already in the paid side of the metro and had a single use card in his hand. I didn’t have any singles so I gave him a $5. He seemed happy and said he would spread it around. Maybe he did. Please pray for this man.
In between these encounters I also recall running into a man in downtown Baltimore near the Basilica who asked for some money. I had singles and gave him $1. He asked me if I had $10 so he could buy a bicycle. I only gave him $1 though. Please pray for him.
Now, in other instances, I pass by individuals who sit on the curb or sidewalk areas in the downtown parts of DC and National Mall areas who shake a cup full of change screaming “Spare change…” etc. I can’t move myself to offer any $1’s to these individuals. I don’t carry change, either. It seems like they are everywhere, too! Please pray for them all! But, I have to ask: Should I just stop and talk to them, find out what they really need? Possibly point them somewhere for help?
And lastly, just today, I was walking through DC on my way to a scheduled event and I saw a man digging through one of the city street corner trash cans. This seemed to signify that he was really genuinely in need. He was doing something to try to survive. I wish I had stopped to ask him if he needed some food. Please pray for this man, too!
In summary, if anyone is familiar with these kinds of situations and has experience or feedback to offer for how I could respond or help when I encounter the lesser of our society, please share your thoughts. I would greatly appreciate it.