Friday, March 18, 2011

Giving Alms

I know you're not supposed to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so I'm probably going to obliterate any heavenly treasure I've stored up. However, I had an encounter today that I haven't been able to shake.

I took the morning to do my weekly shopping.  Today was a day full of traffic, accidents, and beggars.  On the way to Target the last stop of the morning, I saw two homeless men on the side of the road.  One was close enough for me to talk to, so I called to him and offered a bag of food, which he took happily.  I like to keep bags of crackers, fruit snacks, granola bars, etc. in the car in case I'm stopped at an intersection with someone asking for help.  I never carry cash around, and I prefer not to give money, anyway.  Most people take the food gladly.  One man rejected my offer the second time I saw him because the crackers were too hard for him to eat.  The next time I saw him, I had bananas ready. All of this is really back story to say that I am more than willing to help if someone needs something, and it's in my power to give it.

So, fast forward to Target.  I got out of the car and was opening Bumble's door when a lady approached.  I was a little suspicious so I took a step back to keep some space between us. She was speaking frantically and quickly, "Miss could you help me?  It's not for me; it's for my kids."  

"Sure," I said.  "What do you need?"  At this point, I was expecting a cell phone to call someone because of a broken down car or something.


"I don't have any cash, but you can come shopping with me, and I'll buy whatever you need."  I thought this was a great offer, but she looked at me hesitantly.  So, then I added, "Or you can tell me what sorts of things you need, and I can bring them out to you when I'm done."  I know from past experience that homeless people especially are sometimes reluctant to go into stores, and I thought that might be why she hesistated.

"Uh, no.  Thanks."  And she walked away zig-zagging between cars.  I suppose looking for another mark.  That was not my thought as she walked away, though.  I was thinking, But your kids need stuff.  I really don't mind helping.  It wasn't until later that my thoughts became more cynical.  I realized, though, that what she probably really needs more than the money or food is a prayer.  So I offered one for her because sometimes that's the only help I can give.

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