It‚Äôs been quite a week in our neighborhood.
Tuesday night we had about 50 Jr. High kids come down and help out on our street. They picked up tons of sticks and bundled them all up and raked a lot of grass and leaves into bags. It was good to walk down the street and see them all working so hard, and then talk to my neighbors some that had come out to see what was going on.
Last night we had a prayer night and some friends from church and our whole family went to two nearby schools and prayed for the surrounding neighborhoods. I was especially glad to take the kids along so they could participate and witness what we‚Äôre doing.
Tonight seemed normal enough. We called it our ‚Äúnight off‚Äù since we didn‚Äôt have any events planned. I was out in the back yard getting the grill going when one of my neighbors came out to his back yard and we both met in the alley and started talking. He said that the house behind us and over one has been empty for 6 years, and was a crack house before that.
I think in a few days another crew from church will come and clean it up. I told him I would like a corner of it for a garden. He said he‚Äôs already done that! He grew corn and tomatoes in somebody‚Äôs abandoned yard!
He went back into his house and there I was trying to cook my burgers medium well and figure out where I‚Äôm going to put a fence between my yard and the alley. I heard a bike approach and it startled me.
I told the person on the bike it startled me and they just laughed. They asked me what I was doing. I commented about the fence and our wall, etc. THINKING that I was talking to a teenage boy.
Well I was wrong.
It was a woman.
After my comments about the fence, I repeated her question back, ‚ÄúWhat are you doing?‚Äù¬†(looking back, I realize that I speak with a different level of respect to a woman than to a teenage boy)
She said, ‚ÄúI‚Äôm just needing some food. I‚Äôm homeless-I sleep down by the river-and pregnant and I have diabetes and I just need $5 to get something to eat.‚Äù
That is a tough call. In the past I haven‚Äôt been able to mix relief w/ the gospel. At the same time I‚Äôve seen that relief w/o the gospel just helps wicked men in their wicked deeds. But here was a beggar, humiliated I could tell, begging.
I gave her two McDonald‚Äôs gift cards and she said she smoked too. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm not going to help you with that, that‚Äôll kill you. Of course, that McDonald‚Äôs might too.‚Äù I said. I know it‚Äôs hard to be thankful when you‚Äôre desperate. She also darted off about as fast as she could after I gave it to her, looking¬†embarrassed.
It‚Äôs really embarrassing being poor. It‚Äôs humiliating to ask and it‚Äôs humiliating to take a handout. I know about all kinds of long-term plans to help people out of poverty, but I also know what it‚Äôs like to be hungry and not have enough money to buy the food you need.
I think I would rather give $500 away to 100 con men tricking me into giving them drug money, than say no to a single mom trying to figure out how to get dinner.
Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?
1 Corinthians 6.7 ESV
There is a fine line between being foolish and generous. Risk it.