I live in New York City. When it comes to charity, you easily become jaded. You see homelessness on such an extreme level, you quickly understand that you can’t help everyone. Not only can you not help everyone, some people don’t want help and become defensive when you try.
How do you help and when? Many people have a rule of only offering food and drink or buying supplies. Cash is very frowned upon because it is assumed that it is enabling bad behavior. Mainly, drug addiction.
Tuesday, while walking out of Grand Central (a portal of Lady Liberty), I saw a young man in thin clothing shivering, sitting in the pouring rain. He has a sign. I didn’t read the sign but when I reached in to hand him a $20 I saw the bold word “Stranded” in large lettering followed by a paragraph. I’m certain is was a lie but I didn’t need an excuse.
Right before seeing this man, as I was on the escalator coming up from the 6 train, I saw a colorful abstract piece of art depicting Hermes. It was a print of the statue guarding the building. A part me believes he was, in truth, the young man.
I was so touched by the moment. I felt so called to help this lost child of God, but all I had were twenty dollar bills. I specifically got a little more cash than I needed right before getting on the train. Why shouldn’t I give this man some charity? He was shivering either from the cold of wet winter weather or drug withdrawals. How many walked past this man and deemed him unworthy? How many watched his discomfort and thought his desperation and lifestyle were inexcusable?
I gave this man a 20 and I instantly imaged someone coming up to me harassing me about it. The young man was shining in gratitude: What? Wow! Thank you! He would probably use that money for heroin, I thought. What if my money bought the drugs he overdosed on?
My honest reaction to this moment with the divine was that at least he would have enjoyed his last moments and thought of me kindly. It is not for me to judge the worthiness of someone else’s choices and pain. Is his sin worse than a man of good reputation that secretly and ruthlessly acts on his sadistic impulses?
I was always enamoured with the concept of Jesus as a the Stranger. Do not despise the homeless or the lost ones consumed by addiction or the unhealthy lost without a cure. You are not made for judgement. We are all in this together. Show kindness for the other’s journey because sometimes a bit of kindness is all that is needed to break through and let love in.
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
– Revelations 3:20