I gave a man my gloves today. And some loose change (I honestly didn't have a single dollar in my wallet). I say this not to receive a pat on the back, but to admit that I struggle with giving. It's not that I don't want to give; it's often that I don't trust those who are asking for help. It seems like far too many people have access to markers for their cardboard signs, and they don't look like they're really worse off than I am. We used to carry a box of granola bars or other food in the car to give to people (usually it was Ken, the man who was often on the corner on our way to our previous church).

We actually have a pair of gloves to give to someone in need. Last winter outside our old apartment, a man was trying to give a homeless guy a pair of gloves. He threw them on the ground (he didn't seem mentally well). I picked them up knowing at some point I would come across someone who needed them. I didn't have them with today, so I ended up giving the guy mine (and I'm hoping the other ones fit me).

The guy came up, explaining how the police wouldn't let him ask people for what he needed. He started going into Bible verses--beginning with how God will provide and going into verses about Christmas. He shared how he was homeless and also had schizophrenia. He had six kids because at the time he didn't know better. It got me thinking about being homeless in the winter we're having in Minnesota. About being the child of a man who's mental illness prevents him from having a stable life. About the financial situation we're in and how blessed we truly are, despite struggling at times.

I'm realizing giving isn't about the actual or perceived needs of those who are asking for things. It's about the status of my heart. Do I need someone to prove their burden of need before I give to them? Do I cling to what I have too tightly that I fear giving it away to someone who will misuse it? Do we need to know the honesty of a person to love them?

I don't know how true this man's story was; he seemed sincere. But I realized it didn't matter. He didn't have gloves. I had some. God calls me to give. I don't always want to. I often don't feel I can without sacrificing of what I have. But that's God's example. Giving. Freely. Even of His Son. And so I wished the homeless man a Merry Christmas, wishing him blessings, just as he blessed me in our brief encounter.

1 comment:

Douglas Dart said...

I had a friend who lived and Berkeley, a place renowned for its panhandlers. He carried quarters in his pocket and gave one or two to anyone who asked for change. He felt that if they misused the money, that was on them, but that it was on him to respond to the request. And he did.