Thursday, September 15, 2011

Hey buddy can ya spare a dime?

I'm feeling convicted as I type this.

For several years now, I've routinely not carried cash on my person. I carry my debit card and that's it. I prefer not to hassle with cash, to be honest.

However, there's one big problem that I'm running into by doing this, and it's bothering me. I'm largely unable to help people.

Today as I was walking back to the office from lunch, a homeless guy asked me for some help. I gave him my standard reply: "I'm sorry man, but I don't carry cash. I've only got plastic on me." I said the same thing yesterday when a different man asked me for a quarter as I walked to lunch at 4th Street Live. Last week there was a women's and children's charity collecting donation at the intersection nearest my office. I gave them the same response.

This is troubling me.

In making my own life easier, simpler, I'm making other people's lives harder. It's not that I don't want to help these people. I just can't, while carrying only plastic.

I think that what I'm going to start doing is carrying a $5 bill in my pocket every day, along with my debit card. I'll still buy my lunch and everything else with plastic, like always. But the next time a person in need asks me for a hand, I'll give em that 5-spot that I've earmarked for just that purpose. The next day, I'll have to remember to replace that Abe Lincoln in my pocket with another so that I can help the next person who asks.

What do you guys think? How often do you give money to folks who ask you for a little help?


  1. Now you're putting a guilt trip on me.
    I do not usually give any money to people on the street who ask for it. All the regular reasons apply: they'll use it for drink, drugs or smokes. I also have a concern that I will be promoting panhandling either around my workplace, or on the busy roads, causing potentially unsafe conditions either way. I know everybody else does this on the street too, like March of Dimes, but I don't like that either. All of this may simply be my way to rationalize my own selfishness. However, I have on several occasions given food to beggars. I don't have any problem with feeding someone. On a couple of those occasions, the person wouldn't even take the food! Come on! Lastly, even if the aforementioned beggar was only going to use my money for booze, is that so bad? Maybe he needs it. I do applaud your concern for these individuals. If not for the grace of God...

  2. Those are all valid concerns, in my opinion, and I have considered each of those as well. I've thought "what will I do if they same guy starts hitting me up on a regular basis?", and my first reaction is to say that I'll tell him in a nice way that I won't be his personal ATM...but is even that scriptural? Does the Bible say that we are to help the poor a little bit...but not too much?

    Philippians 2:3-4 says:
    "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others."

    I too have had the same concerns about them spending the money on liquor or drugs...but you know what? I think that what they do with that money is between them and God. I don't think God expects us to be their probation officer, I think He expects us to help people who need help, out of love for Christ.

    As a side note, I usually interrupt their "story" that they always hit you up with. His car broke down a few blocks over. He needs bus fare to get back to St Louis to be with his dad in his final days. He just got out of the hospital and just needs a little money to get home. I just cut them off. I just assume right off the bat that it's a made-up ruse...and I don't even care that it is. What I do know is that this person finds himself in an undesirable situation, and I know that because he's asking people for money on the street. That's really all I need to know. He is a person that was created in the image of God, and he needs help, and (if I have a little cash in my pocket) I have the ability to help. Just leave the made-up sob story alone and take this $5, and know that God loves you. That's how I see it.

  3. In fact, I'm going to do something else that I've not done before. Whenever I give money to someone, I'm going to ask their name and pray with them first, right there on the sidewalk.

  4. I really enjoyed this post and your guys' comments. I'm almost always the first one to pull a dollar or whatever I have out of my pocket and give it to someone in need, but people often say "are you crazy?" or "I wouldn't do that, they are drunk/on drugs/etc" but I don't care. It truly is between them and God as to what they use the money on and if I do have the money on me, I can't think of a reason good enough not to give it to them.