Saturday, February 25, 2012

begging on the corner.

a few saturdays ago, i took the kids to visit some friends. we have to switch routes at the midway point under a busy overpass. we stood waiting for the bus, and a kid, about 10 years old, dirty and with three packs of crackers in his hands walks over.

"miss, do you have any money. i'm real hungry."

i look down and see the crackers in his hands - selling things at busy intersections is a fairly common thing for street kids to do, along with shining shoes and cleaning your car windows - and remark about how he has crackers, why doesn't he eat them. it wasn't a mean comment, i was curious.

"they're not mine. i sell them for some guy and he gives me dad a part of the money. i can't go home until i make at least 200 pesos."

sounds mean. cruel and unusual. who forces their kids to beg and sell things on the street and then demand they make a certain amount of money before they're allowed home. but it's true. and it's sad.

i asked him how much the food cost, and walked with him to get it. not because i didn't trust that he'd buy food with it - i could tell that he was hungry - but because sometimes the sheer humility of asking for something so basic begs for human companionship as well. someone who cares enough about you to accompany you, if even for a few minutes.

while we stood there negotiating his meal (and some juice, please) a man came over and told me i should buy his lunch as well. after all, he is hungry, too. was this some ploy to get the naive girl waiting for the bus?

sorry, friend, i told him, but i spent my money on the kid.

well, the kid should share with me then.

no. he is hungry. he's a child. he is not old enough to take care of himself. he should be in school or playing baseball, not selling crackers at a busy intersection to support his family.

i don't think that anyone wakes up and makes a conscious decision to be poor. and i know that for most people it involves the death of pride to actually beg for food to feed a family. but.

it's the attitude.

i don't owe you food because you're hungry. i also don't owe you food because i had the money to buy someone else food. i don't expect you to bow down and kiss my feet, but i don't expect to be made to feel bad because i don't give you something.

i was taught to be kind to strangers, to widows, orpans, the homeless and helpless because you never know when you might be meeting christ. but i just can't imagine that jesus would be coming at me with demands and swear words. but that's just me. i might be wrong.

i will buy food. i will buy something from you. i will pay you to shine my shoes even when i'm not wearing shine-able shoes. i will give you money, and not even wonder what you're going to do with it.

but. please. don't tell me how or where or when - or worse that i should take the food from a hungry child to feed your adult belly.

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this lenten season, i'm reflecting on how to give without creating dependency; how to give with a faithful and servant's heart and how to let go once i give material things away. i come in contact daily with people who have way less than me, who are hungry and tired and un-bathed. join me as i begin to work through it. check out all of the posts under the label "lenten reflection"

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