In London and here, in Brisbane (and other Australian cities) you very rarely see someone begging for money. In fact, Neil said that in England there were campaigns that conveyed that the pennies we give to the homeless people just keeps them on the streets longer. They were encouraging people to give them money to charities who then get the appropriate help to the homeless who turn to them.
One of the things you notice here are people in bright yellow vests selling “The Big Issue” magazine on the streets. They are about $5, it’s not a great magazine but it’s pretty good. What’s cool about it is that the money then goes to the people who sell it. So they can’t beg but they can do something to earn that money. Usually these are the people who have put an effort in trying to get their life back on track. They are dressed appropriately and they are not bums, they are just selling their magazine.
I don’t know how I feel about it all. I have somewhat conflicting feelings about giving money to people who are capable of working but choose not to. On the other hand, because of my beliefs, especially, where Jesus said that when we do these things we are doing them to him, I feel like I should contribute.
I think that generally there are all kinds of ugly preconceptions about people begging. The truth is, we don’t know what their circumstances are. Even if they are druggies, we don’t know what led them to that point. There is still a human, even in the most rugged, dirty, drugged out person laying in his own pee on the street. There was a point in that persons life that got him or her there.
The other day I was walking home and there is a “Big Issue” seller on the street that takes me to the train station. I stopped and bought one of his magazines. What he said to me touched me to the depths. He was all excited, smiled and said “I will go and have some Chinese for dinner tonight”.
Somewhere deep down I became ashamed that I don’t give more. That I don’t help more. I am capable and I am able to but I choose not to because I want to buy more for myself. It makes me a little scared of God. Seriously. I think there are very clear teachings about not helping those in need.
But at least for one night, I helped this guy to have a Chinese for dinner.
I bet it’s his favorite kind of food.