Twice, now, in as many weeks, I’ve been face-to face with beggars. For some reason, I always feel funny. A big part of me always wants to go over and give some money. I usually do. At the same time, a big part of me is conscious of a lot of social pressure not to.
We’re not really helping them, we’re told. We should give to organizations and shelters, not to beggars. They’ll just use the money unwisely. And this is not just the external society I’m hearing. These are people in the church talking this way.
But the scriptures continuously tell us to “turn not the beggar away”, and Mosiah tells us “we are all beggars” before God.
So, why am I embarrassed to walk over and hand them my spare change?
Maybe I’m embarrassed because that’s all I give. Maybe I’m embarrassed that I have so much, and that so much of it is trivial nonsense, and they seem to have so little. I’ve probably spent hundreds of dollars in the last year on game cards, for example. And there I see someone who has no work, no shelter, no life.
Maybe I’m embarrassed that so many others are critical of the beggars, and so I, too, can be the brunt of their judgment. But ultimately, that would be a good thing, wouldn’t it? If I could take their scorn?
I don’t know. But I still like to go and throw a few coins or bills their way.
A couple of stories come to mind.
One of them was given me by a good friend, and is posted at his website:
A re-write of a Biblical Parable:
A certain man went down from
And by chance there came down that way the man's stake president: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side, saying: "I'm sure glad I'm not his bishop."
And likewise the man's bishop, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, stopping and watching for signs of self-reliance. Seeing none, he passed by on the other side.
And likewise the man's quorum leader, when he was at the place, did take out his cell phone and did leave a voice message for the home teacher. And the man's home teacher, when he did hear the message, did sigh exceedingly, knowing there was nothing he could do - having made his quarterly visit the month before.
And finally did the Relief Society president pass by, determining immediately to call the Compassionate Service leader to have the sisters deliver a meal to the dying man's family.
Which now of these, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?
The other one, I don’t have a source for.
It’s a story of a sermon given by a preacher in church one Sunday. He’d spent the morning meeting with some of the poor members of his congregation, and hearing their sad circumstances, and their struggles. As he walked into the chapel to start the meeting, he shared their frustration and then got angry.
When the time came for him to stand and deliver his sermon, he began by saying, “There are people in our very congregation who will go hungry tonight, and most of you don’t give a $%#!”
A hush swept the chapel, and he continued. “…But what really gets me angry is that you were all more shocked when I said the word $%# than you were when I said that there were people in our very congregation going hungry tonight.”
And then he walked out and the meeting was over.
So, I’m fully aware, as I’m writing this, who I’m incriminating. I’m not certain that I would be the Samaritan to help the man and pay for his treatment. I’m not certain that I would be shocked about the news of people going hungry, but I know I’d be shocked if my bishop swore from the pulpit.
Would I be shocked into action?