A few years ago, while living in Baton Rouge, I vowed to become a friend to the poor and homeless. You see there was this man who often stood on a narrow median on the College Street exit, coming from the I-10 East. Occasionally, I would stop at the red-light with traffic backing up (stopping in backed-up traffic in BR is a given day in and day out) and drop money in whatever container he was using that day.

One late afternoon on a cold, drizzling afternoon in Winter, I took the exit. There he was, with his “I will work for food” sign in his hands and using his wet hat to receive whatever people were sharing. As I sat there at the light and watched as he made his way toward me, it suddenly occurred to me, jolted me really–who in their right mind would stand in the cold, drizzling rain begging for their livelihood in this manner? Then it occurred to me, he may have absolutely had a sound mind, but a growling stomach (add whatever you wish here). It was then I took a vow-I WILL CONTRIBUTE TO THE NEEDS OF PANHANDLERS, TO THE POOR.

I can even now hear the grumbles now-“you don’t know what they are going to do with the money; why don’t those ‘lazys’ get a job” etc. etc. I, myself, have said these things and others like it.

I don’t know why “they” do and say and advertise on card board. I do believe the poor teach us more about ourselves, our thoughts and our motives. I do believe they teach us more in our 20-30 second encounters than we can comprehend. They beg and we begin all these grumblings in our mind or we begin conversations about should I give or not, how will my gift be used, maybe he or she is a….

You know it’s a very troubling and disconcerting dilemma when questions begin to out-weigh doing the right thing ( See the 9th chapter of the Gospel of John).

Isn’t it interesting how we can
take such amazing times for celebrating that something good has happened or is about to happen and turns it into an oppressive theology where–a person still stands with a cardboard sign as we do what we think are our justifiable mind games on why we really shouldn’t go give.

I choose to give (not as faithfully or as often as I should). I choose to be a friend of the poor (Father, forgive me when I do look away and treat persons as non-entities).

And I ask you my brothers and sisters to forgive me for what I have done or not done by begging theological questions instead of giving to the beggar.

(See: http://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/03/opinion/the-pope-on-panhandling-give-without-worry.html