Monday, November 10, 2014

Hungry, Please Help!

The Hand (3950973346)<
"For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat" (Matthew 25:35). That's what Jesus said.  Here's what he did not say:
For I was hungry, and you ignored me.
For I was hungry, and you decided I was not really hungry.
For I was hungry, and you tried to decide if I was worthy of something to eat.

Then why do we treat the "least of these," the hungry people on the side of the road, as if they are part of scenery or worse?  You don't want to give money to someone who might go buy liquor with it? That's okay. But there is so much more we can do for the man or woman who stands on the corner with a sign.

1.Look them in the eye.  We've all done it.  We can't/don't want to give to the man standing on the corner, so we studiously look ahead.  Hey, he's not fooled.  He knows you can see him.  Even if you can't give him anything today, don't pretend like he's not there.

2. If you decide you can give them something, there are lots of choices besides handing out money.  
  • A gift card to a local fast food restaurant would provide him not only with food but also with a place to get out of the elements while he eats.
  • Some people like to put together small care packages for the homeless. Along with food, these often include personal care items like deodorant, toothpaste, and toothbrush, along with other weather appropriate items like a poncho, pair of gloves, or hand warmer.  Here is an example.
  • Giving actual food is also a good option.  For the immediately hungry person, a hot rotisserie chicken from Wal-Mart is a good, healthy choice.  However, it won't stay good for long, so non-perishable food works well too.  Think pouched or canned meats (with a pull tab, of course), granola bars, or peanut butter crackers.  You can keep these in your car also.
3. Stop the car.  In the city I live in, there are usually people with signs on the road in front of Wal-Mart or the grocery store.  Instead of handing something out the car window, find a place to park, walk to him, and give him the food, package, or gift card.  I've taken my kids with me while doing this (nothing is going to happen on a busy street corner), and the lesson about helping the less fortunate has really stuck with them.

4. While you are at it, ask for his name and tell him you'll be praying.  Then follow up and add him to your prayers that night.  If someone is at a stoplight at the end of an entrance ramp (another popular place around here), speak to him as much as you can before the light changes.

5. Invite him to church and offer a ride.  If he says no, then you aren't put to any trouble.  If he says yes, you may have a chance to build a spiritual relationship.  If you are afraid to drive a stranger by yourself, check with one of your church leaders to see if they will come with you.

6. If you decide you want to take your helping to the next level, I would advise finding a mentor, someone who has worked with the homeless before who can help you to stay safe and do more good than harm.  In other words, I wouldn't recommend spontaneously offering your guest room.

7. Don't expect effusive thanks.  As Helene mentioned last week, we do good works for our Father to see, not for the gratitude of men.  Many homeless people are mentally ill and/or have been treated so badly that they aren't capable of giving the sincere thanks that make us feel good.  Help them anyway.

I once heard a Christian man yell "Get a job, you bum!" out his car window at the man with a sign on the corner.  Shame on him.  I lived a long time feeling self righteous because I don't yell at the homeless, but I've come to realize that silent judgment isn't any better.  It doesn't matter why he is on the side of the road.  It doesn't matter what he's doing to get himself off the streets.  He's hungry. I should give him something to eat. 


Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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