The WordPress.com idea for today is to write about whether we should “help homeless people, why or why not?” Really? Can anyone answer “No” to that? If you can, you are just heartless. However, let me clarify that I don’t ever give money to people I see on the street (which is maybe what they were referring to?). Not because I think “they did this to themselves” or will “only use the money on drugs”. Just because I never have cash, I already give charitably, I really DON’T know what there motives are, and I’m afraid that if I get too close to strangers on the street they will hurt me. And I’m not just talking about the homeless-looking strangers, little old ladies in Cadillacs scare me too. The only time I have ever given money to someone on the street was when they have actually approached me alone in a parking lot at night and I was afraid that if I didn’t give them money they would attack me (amazingly I had cash). But I still think we should help homeless people. I think the question is not IF we should help them, but HOW. This question has a very different and very personal answer for everyone, and I don’t think there is any right or wrong answer to this.
Some people support charities, or support businesses that support charities, others volunteer at shelters, give money or offer food to people on the street, or give through their church. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, in addition to paying 10% of my income as tithing, I am asked to give fast offerings. When we fast (2 meals on the first Sunday of every month) we give the money that we would have spent on those two meals to the church. They use 100% of that money specifically for the poor and needy. We are asked, however, to give much more than this amount if we can. It is up to each individual to decide how much of a fast offering he or she can afford. I like C. S. Lewis’ criteria for giving: “I do not believe that one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid that the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”
I love, love, love this quote. Why shouldn’t we give until we feel a pinch when there are millions of people in this world with far, far less than we have? I don’t advocate giving away all of our worldly possessions and living in squalor. But I do think that if we aren’t feeling a pinch (how much of a pinch is up to each individual to decide), then we aren’t doing our part to alleviate the more severe pinch that others are feeling.
Yes, we should help homeless people. How to do it and how much to give is up to the individual, but if it doesn’t hurt us a little, is it an effective means of help for the poor, and an effective means of character-building for us?