Posted by: sailingmartha | March 23, 2011

Almsgiving

Another topic that has been percolating around in my mind for some time is almsgiving. First of all, I apologize for talking about this in a personal manner, since the last thing I want to do is draw attention to myself. I’m curious to know other people’s philosophies about almsgiving. At our parish, our priest talks about it a lot. He stresses the idea of giving to people on an individual basis, not necessarily to charitable institutions.

I like that idea, and it’s one I’ve always espoused. It’s harder in practice then in theory though. I don’t know about your area, but around here we have a lot of panhandlers (for lack of a better term). I can’t really go anywhere in my city without being asked for money. Now, I will usually try to help out. If I’ve got some cash on me, I will give the person something. I’ve also tried variations on this theme. If I’m near a fast food place, I may swing through and pick up a meal for them, or if I have food in my car, I may offer it.

Sometimes I’m pretty sure I’ve been scammed. You know, the people at the gas station that tell me they’re out of gas, and can I give them some money to get some. Then when I offer to pay for gas for them, all of a sudden, they don’t need it. The people who need formula for their baby, and then you see them heading into a liquor store.

Then there are the naysayers, the ones who insist that you should never give to someone asking you for money. There are institutions and charities to help them. They should be working and earning money. They’re just going to use it to support their drug and alcohol habit.

I feel like charities can only do so much. Their dollars only go so far. I have nothing against giving to charities, and in fact, I frequently do. But there is something tangible about helping an individual in need. I think it’s what Jesus would have us do. The economy has messed with a lot of people’s lives. I happen to be fortunate to have my drugs legally prescribed and dispensed, and covered by my health insurance. Suppose I didn’t? I’m pretty sure I’d be drinking out of a bottle in a paper bag myself.

Sometimes I feel helpless. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. All I can try to do is be like the man picking up starfish and throwing them back into the water, knowing that he’s making a difference to that particular starfish.

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing, some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Heb. 13:2

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