Last weekend, while in Atlanta for the National Youth Workers Conference, I was walking back with Ivy to the Hotel when a man approached us. He wore an old tattered suit and a cross, with a bible in his hand. He began a conversation and he told a wonderful story about being a pastor from a small town, visiting a dying parishioner in the hospital… and he needed just a few dollars for gas to get back home.
As you grow older it will become common for people to approach you and ask for money. The first time it happens will startle you, but soon it will become routine if you frequent downtown areas. This man was a little more convincing than most, but I imagine the story was created to bring sympathy. Still, I wonder what I should do in these situations. I have been rereading Matthew 25 (the scripture from our last Plunge). As the man spoke, I thought about how giving to the least is like giving to Christ.
When encountering a beggar some people will give them money to send them away or because of guilt for having so much; others will refuse to give because of what might be purchased, or because one should achieve success for themselves. Of course in our hearts all these answers do not add up to truth. We know Jesus would do something more, something miraculous. On beggars Henri Nouwen writes, “money is not the main issue.” In this we find the miracle of Jesus. He would not allow the conversation to be dictated by someone else, as we do. Instead He doesn’t answer the spoken question, but the call of our hearts. I must discover how to do likewise… to live as Jesus among the least.