Feb 11, 2009

beggars and choosers

Last month my oldest son and I joined our church in something called "Shirt Off Your Back." For two months, this rather amazing congregation brought in coats, socks, underwear, shirts, and so on that we might be able to share with the men, women, and children who live on the streets of Cleveland.

Cleveland, by the way, is the U.S. city with the largest homeless population. That's about 40 minutes north of where we gather each Sunday, which means it's easy to block that statistic out of our mind if we want. Or, it's just as easy to do something about it if we so desire.

I reminded my son the night before that we'd be doing this, and in his half-awake state his eyes popped back with life. "Oh yeah! I forgot about that. Hey, maybe I can use some of my allowance money that is extra - like all my loose change - to give to someone who needs it."

That's big stuff for him, considering he gets $2.50 a week, tithes the first quarter, saves the second quarter, and then can choose how to use the remaining $2. He's saving up for something big right now, so naturally my heart melted to hear of his concern for the poor.

"The poor." Now that's a subjective label. What makes someone "poor?"

In the city of Richmond, VA, a proposed ordinance was recently defeated that would have made it illegal for anyone to "panhandle" or solicit money (or help) from people passing by. If it would have passed, it would have meant that you could have sat comfortably in your car and not been approached by someone with a sign.

Ironically, this just happened not too long ago when my family was in Cleveland and stuck in traffic. The boys noticed a guy walking around with a sign that said he ran out of gas and needed help. They said we should help him, but we as parents elected not to since we didn't have extra money nor the time to stop. I kept telling myself (with tons of guilt), "I'll be back here on Saturday to help. I can make a difference then."

Which is sort of the point... perhaps beggars can't be choosers, but beggars make choosers.

We all have the choice to make a difference today or to wait until tomorow. Sometimes that choice is limited by today's resources, but the problem is that tomorrow we may forget about what we saw today. Kind of like one of our church members who said, "I didn't turn my tithe in, and I need to give it to someone today. I know if I don't I'll spend it tomorrow."

So, the choice is constantly mine. And the choice is constantly yours.

Because its true that beggars really do make us choosers.

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