Friday, May 23, 2008

The Big Issue

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.

1 comment:

yellowgirl said...

our small group recently when through a DVD study called "the Truth Project". It's an intense, and long, study, but a good one. One thing that really stuck out to me is right along these lines.

The study talked about the poor, helping the poor, everything you're discussing. It talked about how the Bible calls us to help those in need, and how 'there will always be poor'.

But the thing that stuck out was that many times in the Bible, when there are examples of people helping the poor, it's often through them helping by giving them work - not money. Helping by creating ways in which they can help themselves.

The way it was presented was very profound, in the idea that maybe what God wants us to do is help people by doing exactly that, NOT necessarily help people by just giving them handouts.

Most people want to have value, and by giving them work, you're not just helping them with basic needs but you're helping them see value in themselves.

It seems obvious, but until that lesson I had never really thought of it that way. I'd always thought of the calling as a calling to simply GIVE to the poor. Maybe there's more to it than that.

In that vein, I love that concept, that people are selling the magazines to make money. It's perfect. And maybe what you're called to do is buy the magazine, more often, and research other ways you can create work for them...