The Alternative to Charity

The alternative to this false charity is to love well.

In moving to a house that was inundated with homeless individuals where panhandling was almost an hourly occurrence in my life, I was quickly confronted with the need to discern some 'best practices.'

I will be the first to confess that I don't have it all figured out, but that time in my life helped me to figure a few things out.  Its worth noting, that these are my rules, no one has to follow them but me:

  1. Don't do things because it makes me feel better.  Do things that I think might genuinely help the human being stating in front of me asking for help.
  2. Don't ignore those feelings inside myself.  Don't just walk by and ignore the situation.  Don't ignore people.
  3. Engage.  Make eye contact.  Get their name, and use it.
  4. Find the real problem, and offer to help.  Is it a ride?  A meal?  A job?  Usually the situation is bigger than my ability to solve it.  But usually there is something I can do to be a friend and encourage them to begin to solve it.  The trick is, I usually have to dig a little to get to the real problem.
  5. Meet needs out of my own personal resources, never (or rarely) give money.  Let someone borrow my phone.  Give someone a ride in my car.  Sit down and have lunch ...together.  Introduce them to someone I know who might be able to help more.
  6. Offer to pray.  Ask God to bless them.  Listen to what God might have to say about this encounter.
  7. Where appropriate, and they seem open, invite them to church.  Encourage them that God cares, and they are welcome in His house.

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