Every large (and many small) cities have them - people on the streets, asking for money. They never tell you they’re after drugs or booze, but that concern is always there.
It’s tempting to give a few dollars. I recall the words of Jesus, “when I was hungry, you gave me no food.”
An article ran in today’s Oregonian newspaper - “The Faces of Meth.” It interviewed six former meth addicts (most of whom had only gotten clean because they had been in prison). One of these, James Hibbs, was quoted as saying, “To be honest, it’s so easy to be homeless, living in Portland. It was easy to get money. People are so nice. You can just sit on a corner for five minutes and make $20, and there you go, you had your next bag of dope.”
This reminded me of an experience of my own a few years ago. I had jury duty and was downtown at an early hour. I was walking from the light-rail platform to the courthouse, looking for someplace to get breakfast along the way.
I was approached by an older gentleman, dressed in a suit and tie, but the clothes were shabby. He asked me for money - “money for food.” I told him I was sorry; I couldn’t help him.
A block later I came across a fast food place. I went in and ordered two breakfast sandwiches - one for me and one for that guy. As I was waiting for my order, the gentleman came in and ordered coffee. He then went to the condiment station and started dumping in packets of of sugar - five packs at a time. I know why - some drugs cause sugar craving. He then noticed me standing nearby (not knowing I had ordered him food) and recognized me, and started mumbling about “stuck up white boy (he was black) that don’t care nothin’ about people on the street.”
The food came up, and I reached into the bag and offered the sandwich. His immediate reply was, “I’ll take two dollars” (the exact price of the food).
“I’m not offering you two dollars. I’m offering you breakfast. You said “money for food.” Well, here is food.”
“Well, I’m not hungry right now, and us on the street, we don’t have refrigerators or any way for food to keep. So I’ll take two dollars.”
“I’m not offering you money. I’m offering you food. Do you want it or not?”
And he said no. And I turned and left. And I promised myself I would never give money to panhandlers. I know where my money would have gone had I given him any. Over the years, I have broken that promise a couple of times, when it just “felt right” - maybe that was the Holy Spirit. Maybe I just helped buy another bag of dope.
How about you? Do you give money to panhandlers? Do you have a story to tell?