30 May 2006

For the poor will never cease to be in the land; therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall freely open your hand to your brother, to your needy and poor in your land. Deuteronomy 15:11 (NIV).

The other day I was leaving the baseball game and there were a number of people begging outside of the stadium. I was with two other friends, and we first came upon an old Black man in a wheelchair who seemed to be suffering from Parkinson’s or the after effects of a major stroke, as he was shaking uncontrollably and didn’t seem able to speak properly.  He had a cup out and I gave him a dollar – my friends gave him nothing. We came upon two other guys asking for money and I didn’t give them anything, and neither did my friends. I felt bad about it, but I thought “I can’t give money to everyone who asks…” Plus I felt at least I did a good deed by giving money to the first guy who probably really needed it. One of my friends made some comment about how these beggars were ripping people off and made a “wise-crack” about what I did, giving money to the first guy. I laughed. I don’t know why, because I didn’t agree with his comment and his joke really wasn’t funny.

My father died at the end of January 2006. One of the things I remember most about him was that he was not one for charity. He would not go out of his way to help someone in need outside of our immediate family. He did work hard to provided for his family and my siblings and I never wanted for anything. If we asked him for anything, he would more often than not give it to us. But he would never give money to a stranger… certainly not a beggar! His attitude was that he worked hard for everything he had, so they could work for theirs too. He would also be one to complain if a charitable organization asked him for a donation. He was of the opinion that they would steal the money or use it for their own benefit. I remember him complaining for months when the hospital where he had an operation to remove a part of his lung due to cancer asked him for a donation after he was released. He had this paranoia about being ripped off. I don’t know if this attitude was why he also had no friends. He may have felt that they would at some point ask him for money or for help in some way. When he first retired, he had joined a seniors social club at a retirement home and center. They mainly played cards, had events at the center and went on outings. He quit when they asked if he could assist some of the more feeble members get around. I think they had also asked him for a donation above the yearly dues – A BIG NO-NO!! At his funeral not one person who attended could claim to be his friend. No one outside of our immediate family could sincerely say something “nice” about him. No one could say how he had helped or influenced them in a positive way. No one said that they would miss him. I reflected on all this after his death. In his own way he was a good man, but he had no compassion or empathy for others. After my Mother, his last remaining brother, my siblings and I are gone…. he will be forgotten. It will be as though he never existed.

Since then I have made a commitment to be compassionate to the less fortunate… especially to the poor. I was not one to give money to beggars. I hardly ever did it for a number of reasons. I had no problem giving money to family or friends if they really needed it. But since I started to give to the needy,  I feel… well… better, not just about myself, but about society in general. I feel like I am doing my part, a small part to make the world a kinder, gentler place for someone. Young, old, male, female… if they ask, and I have change or small bills, I give it to them. The recipient is always very appreciative, almost surprised that I do give them some money when they ask. All say “thanks” in their own way. Most say “God bless you.” I have come to realize the reason I felt bad about not giving the other two guys some money is because I could have easily done so. I had a number of one dollar bills on me. I had just spent $25 for a ticket to the game, another $25 for beers, and we were on our way to spend more money on food and alcohol. If I had given each of those guys a dollar… that would have been $3!!! 

So… do me a favour… the next time you are walking by or stopped at a light in your car and someone comes up asking for a dime, quarter, dollar… or just some change…. don’t think about what they are going to do with the money… whether they are going to buy drugs, alcohol or spend it on something illicit, nor think that they look young or able-bodied enough to get a job… just give them a little change and a smile for me. Thank you and God bless you.

He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward him for what he has done. Proverbs 19:17 (NIV)