Responsibility to act or not?

Dear Forum members and friends :slight_smile:

Ok the situation is the following: I am currently visiting with my parents over Christmas; leaving again on Monday. I have moved to another country, where I live from street music and I live a quite frugal life I would say. More or less by choice, but also because I have a lot of expenses and am finally standing on my own legs. :slight_smile:
The flight to visit them was a gift from my parents for my round birthday earlier this month :).

Ok, so, when I lived here before, sometimes I talked to a homeless man who seems to have a little bit psychiatric problems. I remember helping him get a military sleeping bag from a soup kitchen :). I was sometimes worried about him being too cold her ein winter; but then some people at a place where he often goes for lunch told me not to worry about him, people in the neighborhood are looking out for him and when it got really cold some time he knew by himself to find his way to the Salvation Army and sleep there.

Today I saw him. Under two blankets (I think the one was still the sleeping bag from that time? Maybe the zipper doesn’t work anymore? Don’t know.) I said hi and we talked just quickly, because I wanted to warn him as they are predicting extremely cold weather starting on Sunday. Might get down to the low teens in Fahrenheit. He kind of just laughed it off, said he surely wouldn’t freeze to death.
Today he was only wearing his sweater using his jacket as a pillow so he couldn’t have been too cold. But it isn’t even below freezing yet right now.

So. My question. I warned him. I know he has possibilities. I am only visiting here and leaving again Monday afternoon.

Giving money is pretty much out of the question because of my own situation.
I do have a thin sleeping bag but that I will take with me where I am going, as I will be staying in a room that I am not sure can be heated overnight, and even though it is warmer there, it might get below freezing there too.
I do have another blanked that I bought years ago while camping; and it is my favorite, so soft and nice, and my Mom had washed it for me. Not using it right now but not sure might I need it even isnide as a second one, as I must be careful with some health things so as to not get sick when I will have to play music in the cold again… I am wondering should I give it to him that he has three, but then I feel sorry for my Mom who has washed it extra for me so it is clean, plus maybe it wouldn’t make much of a difference to have a third one, or maybe somebody there will help him out anyway and then I’d just feel sorry for the nice blanket.
But I don’t want him to die, so this is a really difficult situation.

A part of me tells me that I have enough of my own problems to worry about, how I will keep MYSELF warm, thin and cold-sensitive lady that I am, and to use this time to have quality time with my parents and not try to find out whether or not a man, of whom you have been told that he is being cared for, has enough blankets…but the other part tells me well but you won’t be sleeping OUTSIDE and maybe he might die?

Just wondering about opinions here.
:slight_smile: Moral opinions, I mean.

Do you have a*** responsibility ***to give him your blanket? No. He has sources of blankets, food, and shelter, as you note. You have a responsibility for your own health as well. You wanted to warn him that cold weather is forecast and that sleeping outside can be dangerous? Don’t condescend and assume that others are ignorant.


You are kind hearted, and you are scrupulous. You often ask about wild animals, homeless people, and other situations where you feel compelled to help. Compulsions need to be discerned with your spiritual director.

NO you should NOT give this man one of your two blankets.

He is a grown man, living on the streets for reasons we do not know. He is capable of finding shelter, of getting help from NUMEROUS social services agencies, and you are NOT responsible for him or morally obligated to give anything to him.

You know, scrupulosity aside, it IS often a difficult question where to help and where not.
For a sensitive person, it can go both ways.
I remember how wonderful it felt to bring an old homeless lady a cup of hot chocolate; I remember feeling so happy deciding to buy her one; it was just a little thing but it felt so RIGHT and from the heart.

(And what also shows again that taking and giving can be equally joyful and are maybe not even all that far apart: There is a nun I have often talked to about social/boundary/conscience issues. I had told her about the old lady as an example when it felt good to do a little gesture of kindness.
That nun some other day then gave some money to a friend of mine whom she also knows and told him something like to buy me a hot chocolate when I sing in the street :slight_smile: :). He told me the nun had told him, and I was so touched.)

Maybe I should listen to that feeling where it feels good and right to give, and also listen to the warning where it gets complusive, because yes, that IS possible. Only there is a gray area probably… ;).
And we ARE called to help out. It can go to extremes, and I have asked myself before, shouldn’t we give all we have as long as we can… but then, again, we have a responsibility for our own lives too.

By the way, I did not mean to condescend anybody with my “severe weather warning”, but hm, this is not the first time I am hearing this, I have been told before that it might come around as condescending when I warn people of things they should know or see themselves.

In any case thank you for your replies.

I think you have a beautiful heart and a lot of compassion. I think that is very admirable about you. A priest shared in his homily one time about a nun friend of his that was downtown and walked by a homeless person, she stopped and told the man that she didn’t have anything to give him today but she wanted to give him a hug and got on the ground to give him one. The priest said the man burst into tears because that was the first hug in ages that he had. Whether you give this man or anyone else something, I think the fact that you talked to him, showed concern about his well being in the weather could probably do more than giving him your 2nd blanket. I think that could be your focus, talking and treating the street people you met like human beings instead of just passing by or just giving them things. Again, your kindness is very touching and a good example for all.

Thank you.
I agree that as little as a smile can do wonders.
MUST be careful to not be condescending, I do still agree with that former answer.

It is the responsibility part that sometimes… scares me.
When I was a child I read a story in which a family doesn’t let a homeless man into their home and the next day they learn he froze to death. That touched me very much, I still think of it sometimes.

I am aware that i cannot help everybody with my limited means. No mere human can save the world anyway. Plus in the past (long ago now) I have gotten into “problems” giving away too much - or at least into disagreements with people who have helped ME. :wink:

If giving him a blanket will really make you feel better, perhaps check out a second hand shop. You never know; you might find a nice wool blanket for a dollar or two.

we have a center here in town that takes in old clothing and blankets etc… they work with Catholic Charities and the other churches and the local police to make sure that the extra blankets and coats are available to the indigent that go thru town during the winter…
be at peace, there are others that help people in this situation and you’ve done more than most would.
You had an extra cloak and you gave it to one in need, no where does it say that you need to give your only cloak too.

It is not my only cloak.
I haven’t used it in a long time.
It’s just one that is especially dear to me.
Right now as I am here I am using the one that… well, that’s been in my room at my parents’ house.
The other one I bought many years ago while camping in springtime and my sleeping bag was too thin and brought it home.
I even call it a special name but we are not supposed to be attached to things.
Sometimes here I have used it as an extra one when it was especially cold. It is a really nice and warm one.
It is clean now, I think last winter my Mom washed it for me in the machine and that is maybe the main reason why I would feel sorry to give it to somebody sleeping in the dirt :frowning: .
But I would if he had no reseouces and no other blankets.
He does have at least too.
I have no idea if one more would be the difference between life and death, or if it would just be a waste.
That is maybe the dilemma.
And the fact that I have been told before not to worry about him, he knows when to go to a shelter, he has done it before when it got really really cold (close to minus 20 celsius).
I might walk by there again and check out the situation, I don’t know yet. I think the real cold starts after the weekend.

And I am leaving on Monday.

Hm, at least this puts into perspective my fears I had that I might not survive sleeping in my sparely heated room where I live now. And there is mediterranean climate, only that an exceptional cold wave is forecasted that will reach even those areas. I got really scared! :wink:



This is compulsive thinking. STOP. Do not go back and check on him. You must learn to put compulsive thoughts away and not return to them. Do not give away your possessions.

Talk to your spiritual director when you return home.

Thank you for your replies.

Dear Ike I know you mean well, but I don’t think I should bother my pastor where I live with this. :wink: I am glad I got away from having to ask a priest about almost every little thing---- exaggeratedly speaking now.
There is a nun there I can talk to very well about just such things… but this here now… well,I asked for some advice here, took it, and I think I did do the right thing now…

One advice was that I am not responsible. Which helped me feel less… well, responsible.)
One advice was to check a second hand shop… and suddenly I remembered there WERE two second hand shops that actually might hae something like that.
So I went and bought a wool blanket that I could afford… was about 10 dollars but just before a lady had given me a late birthdaxy gift of about that amount. ;)))

Well, I wanted to gove him the blanket but he said he didn’t need it!!
I couldn’t bring it back, so I ended up giving it to an older couple that happened to be outside nearby, they said they knew him very well and a lot of people have tried to give him things but he often didn’t want to take anything. They agreed to hold on to the blanket and ask him again when it gets very cold maybe tomorrow night, when it is supposed to get well below freezing… otherwise give it to somebody else.

So thank you all for the advice :slight_smile: I do think I did the right thing now and I am not obsessing about it anymore… wasn’t TOO much anyway, it kind of doesn’t get that deep anymore, but I was unsure enough to ask for advice, adn I think it helped. :slight_smile:

And I wish you all a wonderful rest of the day.
Hope it isn’t cold where you are.

That you had these thoughts says great things about you.
I’m so glad that you were able to help more easily without endangering yourself.

I agree that you were not responsible for him, but reaching out to do so anyway is very admirable, just make sure you can still eat.
Cuz you shouldn’t light yourself on fire to keep others warm, and you still have to eat in order to earn the money to pay for the bread of others.

I can still eat no worries.

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