How many times a day do we see a man or woman on a street corner with their hands out for change? How many times do we pass them by, without giving them a second look? Is this a behavior we should be practicing? Should we humor these folks out of pity? Should we hand them our heart on a platter? Or perhaps all they ask for is a little sincerity and compassion. Who are we to deny them what they may or may not need? Let me show you a new outlook on this subject.
When we generally think of a homeless person, we assume they took to the streets because their drinking or addictions drove them to debt. That’s not always the case. According to the Hunger and Homelessness Survey, conducted by the United States Conference of Mayors in 2009, only 11% of families are homeless due to substance abuse. The top three causes of homelessness are lack of affordable housing, poverty, and domestic violence. This means that even mothers easily become homeless when on the run from abusive husbands. Most times, they are forced to take their children with them. Are we denying a mother her only way of supporting her children? Others included in the homeless population are teenage runaways, and some are mentally ill. When we pass by these people without a second look, we’re denying them help, as well. Interestingly, the same report showed the exact opposite with individual homelessness. The top three causes of homelessness for individuals are lack of affordable housing, substance abuse, and unemployment. Substance abuse ties with lack of affordable housing at 67%. That’s a pretty high percentage and a pretty easy gamble to take when assuming your sincere dollar will go towards beer or drugs, but that’s not what I’m discussing here. The point behind all these statistics is to say we never know the situation, or the background, of a less fortunate person begging for change, so who are we to judge them and invent their story for them?
Imagine any scenario where the tables are turned, and you are the one on the corner asking for pennies. Do you think the sign you were holding would read anything different than anything you’ve read in the past? What would you write on your sign to convince the world that you were in desperate need of help, and not just some sap trying to make an easy living? Most of the time we judge a homeless person based on the sign they hold. We get frustrated because it asks for money, instead of work or food, and we feel like they are trying to con us. Truthfully, there probably aren’t any words sincere enough to convince a hard headed America.
The Bible tells us that it is God’s place to pass judgment, not ours. He also asks that we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless. Whether they spend the money on frivolous things or not, God reads our hearts and He knows our help is sincere, and that is all He asks. Looking at the situation from a moral perspective, we know judgment is wrong. It leads to incorrect assumptions, stereotypes, and hurt feelings. Perhaps we should all be a little more empathetic and lend a helping hand. Whether you believe in Karma, or you believe in Jesus, the answer is pretty clear, and the outcome is still looking pretty good. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting we give for selfish reasons. I’m simply suggesting we put aside our judgments and help someone based on the fact that we care. Our simple dollar will lighten up someone’s day, and even put a smile on our faces as well. What act of kindness could be more selfless?