Growing up, we never gave money to anything. Not because we didn’t have any, but because money was meant to be earned and not given.
I remember that we weren’t allowed to raise money for school or for projects or whatever. Occasionally we could raise money for a church-related charity but that seemed to be about it.
I distinctly remember learning that giving money to beggars would not make a difference in the long run and if we really cared about the earth or the poor, we would hasten the second coming of Christ because He’s the real solution to all the world’s problems.
Now I follow all that logic, but as an adult, I’ve grown to disagree. So much of what we have is really a mercy from God and even if we can’t change the world, a small gesture can still mean that it meant something to someone that you were alive today.
I wonder about my uncle Eddie and what was like not to have a permanent place to live or to have to fit all of his belongings in his backpack. I wonder what it was like to have severe chest pain and still have to figure out where to spend the night. I know that there’s not really that much that distinguishs me from him. Even if I am a better person (or made better choices or had better resources), I still can’t possibly be that different.
So when I see someone on the side of the road asking for money or food, sometimes I give them something in Eddie’s memory. I can’t change the past, but I can do my part to contribute to making life a little smoother for my fellow men and women. I know that strangers helped him, and sometimes it seems that that’s all I can do – continue the legacy of caring and generosity.
Even if money or food doesn’t solve the problem, even if it contributes to it, I believe that the love shown by one human to another is priceless. (Which is why I give in person as much as possible.) That human connection, that confirmation that your existence really does matter – we human beings to programmed to require that to survive.
I know that for me, in the darkest of times, that is what has helped the most: small gestures of friendship. A book. A visit. Listening and then praying. A smile in the hallway. A wish of a good day.
There’s a reasons Scripture says that it is more blessed to give than receive. Because God rewards a cheerful giver. If we allow Him, He enlarges our hearts and also give us the opportunity to be shepherded by those we serve.