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An Open Letter to Street Beggars  

An Open Letter to Street Beggars, pan handlers and what would be labeled in a less politically correct age as...bums. 

Please know that I hear you and see you every time I walk downtown.  See your handwritten cardboard signs, your coffee cups hungry for coins.  And like most followers of Jesus, I struggle in knowing how to respond.

So here's the deal I'm making—it's admittedly something of a compromise.  If you ask me for food, I will buy some—as long as it is in my power.  You have my commitment to doing what I can to alleviate your hunger.   I will likely NOT give you money to buy food—because I have seen the abuse this scenario invites.  I have no appetite for fake appetite—and I'm deeply opposed to buying your next beer or your next joint.   But if possible, I will give you physical food.

Can I be honest with you, Mr. or Ms. Street Person?  It irritates me when I see your deception and uncover the phony nature of some of your signs.  You know who you are—this month telling me you need $34 to pay for blood pressure medicine...next month $85 to—quote—“keep your place.”  And it just about makes me want to spit when I see some of you eating lunch at pricey places inside the train station.  I know, I know.  “Don't judge.”  Maybe someone donated the food—or gave you the money for those nice lunches.  It's not fair to jump to too many conclusions.   Nor is it fair to point out your inconsistencies while ignoring my own.

As I carefully weigh the stewardship of giving you a dollar or two or five...how I could wish the same sense of rigid accountability was a grid through which every dollar of mine is run.   Alas, I am usually happy to spend a twenty on myself without a thought...while agonizing over whether to give you a lousy buck.  

So as you can see, I am, at points, decidedly uncomfortable with the path I have chosen. 

Jesus said “the poor you will always have with you.”  I just wish BEING with the poor was less uncomfortable.  But maybe that was Jesus’ intent in the first place.

Thanks for wading through this letter.

See you...out on the street.

 

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Jon GaugerJon Gauger

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