Sunday, December 2, 2012

The War On Panhandlers, Beggars, and Assorted Other Blight

Transparent LanguageMy community has recently begun a sort of war on pandhandlers.  On most major street corners and shopping areas there can be found someone (or someones) standing with a sign.  The signs generally inform passersby that they are homeless/unemployed/hungry.  Here's one such example from a local news website:

It seems many are being harmed by this display of need and feel a crack down must occur on this blight to our shopping society.  When the landscape of mall and Target is disturbed by reminders that some don't have the means to just wander in and buy a pair of shoes when the current pair is falling apart (or more than likely, no longer fashionable)....well, it's time to get rid of these folks.

There are missions we are reminded.  And food banks.  And occasionally a church.  These people have a place - and it's not anywhere near where we frequent.  The missions are located in the inner city far from our eyes.  The food banks are pleasant places to volunteer and also tucked away from the grocery store.

Yet this is what I tell my children:

Our response is the only thing we can be responsible for.  It is not for us to determine how hard someone has tried to get a job - if they are former convicts - if they have tatoos - if they will purchase donuts and beer with money we may hand them.  What we will answer for is this:  What have you done for the least of these. 

We will not be asked how we determined which panhandler was genuine in their need.  We will not be asked if we really weighed whether our extra $10 was going to a non profit charitable organization or to a potentially unreligious street corner sign waver.

When did you see me naked?  When did you see me hungry?  These were the questions asked of people when Jesus walked the earth.  When?  When we see someone standing on a corner with a sign as we drive in our comfortable car into Meijer to purchase some organic lettuce or a bottle of wine or a bag of whole bean coffee.  And we justified not stopping by telling ourselves the person was lazy....criminal....pierced....probably lying.

Consider next time what it would take for you to stand on a corner with such a sign.  There's a pretty good chance you know you'd be devoid of pride.  Self-worth would be zero.  Purchasing meat at the grocery store would be a luxury. 

So don't be so smug when you drive by and comment on the state of the social welfare programs in the country.  Instead remind yourself what it is to be human and that the lack of response from many have created the need for so many social welfare programs.  If you are Christian your thoughts shouldn't even run to all things governmental - instead just imagine Jesus sitting next to you in the Volvo...just what is it He would have you do?