I’d like to explore the idea of giving to beggars. Many beggars seemingly blanket our city streets with their various methods. Some are quite simple strategies of sitting on the hard concrete with a sign that invites us to give.
Other strategies involve the use of a musical instrument (no buskers this is not about you) played very poorly to illicit a charitable response. Then there are the more, what are perceived to be aggressive attempts at getting money which involves following people around and asking them for money.
I know some gangs who like to operate by approaching the elderly leaving the Church when they’re at their most vulnerable. When cornering people in such intimidating ways, it’s easier to score yourself a few bucks.
What about Genuine beggers? Unfortunately for them, they’re mixed up in the fracas and confusion of the public perception of who is homeless and who isn’t. I’ve once pondered the question “why we are reluctant to give money to beggars?” Two reasons spring to mind here that are high on the list.
They’re more likely professional beggars who are on social welfare and getting paid. They’re part of a gang to extract money from the public on top of this and live quite comfortable lives.
Money is needed to support the existing addiction to drugs or alcohol. Giving them money provides them with the means to necessarily continue living a dangerous lifestyle. By feeding them money, you undoubtedly have a hand in the contribution towards their slow and painful death.
These are solid and powerful arguments that would have persuaded me in the past, not to part with my money. One day, I had a Christmas shed in the town square where I was selling my photography. It was unbearably cold, and I spot a man sitting clothed in black bags on the concrete and shivering.
I was really moved by his destitute situation. Purposefully locking up my shed, I made my way around the corner to the local outdoor clothing shop. I bought him a state of the art monkey hat with an inner layer of foil to retain heat. Approaching the man, I put it on his head.
My brother, whose retail manager and one responsible for the image of the town approaches me. He informs me not to give anything to the man as they’re professional beggars, and they know this for a fact. There’s a gang of them operating in the country. I thought about the hat I’d given him and how I’d become the victim of a con.
Later, after some reflection, I thought about how it didn’t matter. You know what matters? Not that he’s a criminal, not that he’s drug dependent or any of this. What matters is the actual act of giving. I’m convinced that even when the beggar is dishonest, and we also have inside knowledge of it, that we shouldn’t feel wrong about giving.
Why shouldn’t we feel bad? Because I’m a believer that by doing so, we are giving the genuine and dishonest beggar something of value every single time. We are showing love where there is none and teaching that love and charity, even in the face of dishonesty, matters most. Acts of giving have as much an impression on the beggar (professional or not) than the one of giving money.
Charity should never be about “me” or the situation of the person. If God doesn’t place limits on his love and charity, why should we? If He who made the world has the Rain and Sunshine on both good and bad alike, why shouldn’t we do the same?
Next time I pass a beggar, I’ll give a little something. Who knows, the love by which we show them may wear them down like water shapes stone over time. Eventually one day (and this has happened) they will respond to this higher love and become better people.
Am I naive? Let me know in the comments and don’t forget to follow the blog.