Most people don't agree with me, but I seldom turn away from a person on the street who asks me for money. I'm not patting myself on the back here. It may be better to walk or drive on by. I understand the reasoning of people who do not help panhandlers.
My problem is I enjoy talking to people, and I feel really bad when I take an action that may communicate that I don't have time or don't want to talk or that I don't respect the person asking for my help. There are plenty of times when I don't provide money--lots of times I don't have any! And, there are times when I do move on without talking.
That said, I talked to a gentleman at the corner of Peak and I-30 last Saturday.
He stood there with a drinking glass that he held out to receive whatever donations those who stopped at the signal light might offer up.
I rolled my window down and asked him if he wanted to get off the street?
He laughed at me, not really knowing what I meant. I went on to describe our downtown project, as well as our current ministry opportunities open to him. I told him that my office was very near by and that he would be welcome to stop by anytime. I gave him $5 and waved the driver behind me on around, as he set down on his horn.
As we talked a little more, it hit me. This guy is such a waste. His decisions, for whatever reason, that led him to this terrible corner are not just killing him. They are killing me.
"You need off this corner, man!" I told him.
"That is my opinion," I went on without being asked to do so.
"I respect your opinion, but you gotta see that we need you off this corner. We need you out here helping us make this a better place to live!" I challenged him.
My words pulled him up a bit.
His big smile flattened out.
I know he got my message.
I doubt he will do anything different with it, but then, who really knows?
As I drove away, I realized why I usually stop and talk.
The guy is worth it. He matters.
He doesn't even believe that.
But, I do.
If I didn't, I don't think I could keep doing what I do.
Everyone has value. Some folks are just in the "burying" phase--taking their God-given talent and burying it in an ill-chosen hole.
There are reasons why people take such action. But that doesn't change the fact that my buddy on the corner is not just robbing himself, he is robbing me and my city.
I need him to do better. We're all in this together. We are connected whether we like to admit it or not.
Call me crazy if you like, but I'm going to keep talking to beggars.
December 8, 2013–second Sunday in Advent
56 minutes ago