Several years ago, as my husband and I walked to “First Night” in downtown Tacoma, a fellow approached us with a map in hand, asking if we knew where he might find an agency to help him get his family home to Portland. He said that they’d come to celebrate Christmas with relatives and now their car had broken down. I gave him a little money and my husband chuckled as we walked on. “You don’t really believe the thing about the car and the family, do you?” A few years later I was approached by the same man with the same map, although it was dirty and worn, with the same story except it was not Christmas and I was in the parkinglot of Safeway on 6th Ave. I did not give him money that time.
I am admittedly a soft touch. Perhaps it is because when I was little I loved reading the Old Testament stories and the one in Hebrews, about entertaining angels unawares, has always stuck with me. And maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’ve been on the receiving end of charity when my children and I were homeless.
There are brethren who fall through the cracks of our society and organized social care. How do we help them survive? There are people who cannot and ought not to work largely due to mental illness of one variety or another. Sadly, I do not stop and give change to every homeless person I come across, but I do sometimes. We will be coming across more and more of them and as we do, we have less and less to give. It is hard to know how and whom to help.
In high school my son volunteered at the Tacoma Rescue Mission. With permission he took a black and white picture of a resident looking out of a window as an assignment for his photography class. I framed that picture and hung it where it can remind me to do unto others as has been done unto me. I do not reproach myself for giving that man money that New Year’s Eve. I like myself better for looking for the good in people than if I were to become frightened and cynical. Having received help, I do not mind giving a bit back whether it is through an organized charity like the Salvation Army or a bit of change on a street corner. Besides, I don’t know when I may be entertaining angels unwares.
Happy Thanksgiving, Neighborhood!