I work in a downtown area, and a coworker and I like to take walks in the middle of the afternoon when the weather is nice. It’s nice to take in the fresh air while stretching our legs and soaking in some vitamin D.
However, like most metropolises, Omaha has its fair share of homeless people, and a lot of them frequent the downtown area. It’s not uncommon for my friend and I to be approached by a person asking for money, change, anything we can spare. We usually just say sorry and keep walking. Sometimes we even cross to the other side of the street if we see someone out asking for money.
I often feel a niggling squirm of guilt, but then I make the usual excuse to myself to justify my behavior: I don’t have any cash (which is often true), I’m a vulnerable female in her 30s, the person might just take any money I give them and blow it on booze or drugs, the person might try to mug me while I’m getting out money, etc.
Now, I’m not saying these aren’t all legitimate scenarios. But as I thought about what charity I should write about, I began thinking of plain, simple Christian charity. Despite our fears or prejudices, Christ calls us to help the poor and the needy.
I was once downtown with my dad when a man in dirty, tattered clothes approached us. He asked us if we could spare a dollar so he would have enough money to buy a bus ticket at the terminal a few blocks away. I immediately averted my eyes and gave the man a mumbled sorry, and began walking away. But then my dad did something that I won’t forget.
He stopped, looked the man in the face, and told him he could give him ten dollars, but in order to get the money, he had to allow my dad to pray with him. The man was a little taken aback but agreed. As I watched, my dad took the man’s hands, asked him his name, and prayed that God would bless this stranger and give him a safe journey on his travels. He then gave the man the ten dollars.
I asked my dad about it later, and he said he tries to keep a ten dollar bill, or a few bucks in his wallet for just this kind of thing. He said he won’t just give the money away, but he asks to pray for the person he’s giving it to. Some people have said no, but more often than not, they say yes.
It brings tears to my eyes to know I am so selfish and scared that I more often than not refuse to help someone out. I’m just like the “righteous” people in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, those who passed the poor beaten and robbed man by, only to be cared for by the last person he expected, a Samaritan. How can I be a living example of Christ’s love for others when I can’t even do that for one of God’s children?
That’s the kind of charity I want to be living, and in fact, need to be living.
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