The Journey – Confronted with the Past, Looking Toward the Future
October 5, 2014
Today at church I was confronted with my past…the past that began with helping the homeless. In the past I, too, would have given whatever I had to help someone in need. That past has also taught me some lessons, helping doesn’t always help. Sometimes our very best intentions hurt, not help.
Helping by continual giving can stagnate a life. It can feed the “lessness” that is such a part of the homeless culture. It allows people to continue to be less than they can be. It breeds dependence not independence. They no longer have to do for themselves. Someone else will do it for them. What an easy trap that is to get into and so very, very hard to get out.
Even when Jesus healed and said “Stand” or “Go”. He didn’t say stay in the same place and continue to receive handouts.
As long as we continue to give, people will continue to take and healing will never happen. Jesus knew that. Jesus taught us that when he said “take up your mat and go”. He offered the first step, the ones to come after that were the responsibility of the ones that were healed.
The same is true for us when we reach out to help, for isn’t helping, really offering healing? I think it is ok for us to offer a bit of assistance to get someone over a rough spot. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying never help someone, what I am saying is we have to know when to let go and let them take control of their lives.
There is no pride, there is no dignity in always taking something from someone. Way too often it becomes easier to take than to do and a cycle of perpetual dependence is perpetrated. We are living with the consequences of that cycle, not just here at home, but throughout the world in the cultures we have bred by always giving and never asking anything in return.
The hardest thing I did today was to meet two homeless men who came to our church and not offer them anything tangible. One man had given them a few dollars to go across the street to get something to eat. People have been doing that for the past few weeks, no one knows who is giving or how much. I overheard another lady tell them she would bring them another bag of food and some toiletries next week. I wanted to give them something, I really wanted to.
What I gave them instead was a story about dignity and pride in doing things for yourself. I told them even if you don’t accomplish what you set out to do, there is pride in taking the steps and going beyond their comfort zone. There is pride and that pride begins to show in their appearance. In the way they carry themselves and that leads to people looking at them with different eyes.
Instead, I gave them a challenge. Go to a place to get help and gave them the directions. I told them what the place can do to help some of their immediate needs. I told them I was holding them accountable for taking the action. I would be back next week to see what they had done.
And I will, because in holding them accountable, I have to hold myself accountable as well. It is important that I follow through with them. If I don’t, what is their incentive? What happens to any trust they have placed in me? If I let them down, then they won’t trust the next person. Looking back on the conversation, that is a harsh reality to me. In holding someone else accountable for their actions I also have to hold myself accountable for mine.
Trust. I told them I was trusting them to follow through, and in trusting them I placed their trust in me. Follow through…not something I have ever been very good at…God’s lesson for me today…
I am looking forward with eyes to the future to see what happens with them. Perhaps they will come back next week, perhaps they won’t. God knows