So this is what I decide to do:
Sit in my studio, stare out at a cloudy sky, drink a strong cuppa tea and wear jogging bottoms (not "sweatpants"--a dirty word in England since "pants" means underwear) so that my brand spankin' new trousers that I wore without knowing it would rain can dry on the door. The dishes whine to be washed and there are books to read but a moment by the window is not wasted.
It helps me think.
Today it helps me think about the beggers and needers I come across much more frequently in London than I ever did in the States. Maybe because I drove a car in the States and could stare straight ahead and leave the periphery of sympathy when the light turned green?
I was on the way home from uni today when I got stopped by a friendly looking woman who crossed two lanes of traffic to get my attention. I was wearing my headphones so I almost didn't hear her. She wasn't dressed poorly. She wore earrings and average clothes and her hair was clean and combed (the best it could be in rainy weather.) In one long breath she spewed a slew of information. She said she was visiting St. Mary's hospital up the road for someone in her family and she was 4 months prego and she was new to the area and she didn't realize that parking was so expensive and she needed money to park and she's been asking everyone for help and some people were very nice and she already had almost 10 pounds and she was so thankful and sorry she had to ask but she was desperately in need and she could even offer me her mobile as collateral if i could just help. As she said all of this her eyes roved the streets around us, barely meeting mine, and ding! suddenly i heard a bell go off in my head. This was all vaguely familiar. Hadn't my good friend told me about a time she was walking home from uni and was confronted by someone claiming to be 4 months prego and needing help for her car?
I told her I couldn't help her, and here I sit by the cloudy sky and think of all the people I pass every day who claim to need help. As a person who loves Jesus, I've never felt comfortable defining my weight of responsibility towards homeless people, and I go back and forth. This is how the argument goes in my head:
I never feel right passing on by, without so much as an acknowledgement.
But I know that a lot of beggars are more in need of rehab than money, and that money will only heighten their problem.
Who am I to judge? Jesus said give to those who ask, and that's my only concern--I shouldn't worry about how they'll spend it.
But what if everyone had this attitude? Wouldn't the homeless go on living the same life and never get out of their hole?
So is it better to have food on hand or offer to buy them fast food,
or is it better to sit down and talk to them and find out more about them? (which is not always plausible given time restraints--
but in the grand scheme of things, how important is my schedule?)
I should give my money to a homeless shelter so that I know my money is being put to good use
I already give money to people/organizations who I trust will use my money wisely...
And on and on and on.
G.K. Chesterton once told a story about how a beggar asked him for money, and he gave him everything he had. As they were walking away Chesterton's friend said, "You know what he'll do with that money." And Chesterton said, "But Jesus said give to those who ask." The next day, Chesterton received a check in the mail for the exact amount he had given the beggar.
What does this mean? I don't know. I suppose I'll never know what my responsibility is in all of this, because as the world gets older, more people hurt. Even those people we see everyday who aren't beggars, but who hide their bruised hearts behind clean, shiny faces, need our unquestioning generosity. In the end, all I can do is ask God to give me a discerning heart and a compassionate spirit (and maybe to stop spending much money on luxuries like Starbucks so I have more to give.)