She looked at me. She didn't just look at me...she saw me. And then I completed my turn and kept on driving. I don't know what to do. I live in a small town, but we seem to have a growing issue with panhandling. (I'm sure it goes along with our rank of 8th highest county in the state for food insecurity. That's not a statistic that we want to be at the top of.) As I sit at the stoplight waiting to turn, I see them almost every day. It's either a man in his mid-twenties with a sign that says,
Or it's a girl about the same age with a sign stating,
"Homeless. Anything will help."
The question is, help with what? If we're being honest, it will probably help with the immediate needs of the day: food, water, cigarettes, a hat. But nothing past that day, or they wouldn't be there day after day. This is my struggle. I just don't get it. I want to have compassion. These are people. They have value just because they are human beings. They do not have to do anything to have value as a person. Because they are made in the image of God, it is inherent that they are worthy of compassion and care. And yet...it is very uncomfortable for me to offer said care.
We have a fabulous organization in our county that supports the homeless by offering a food bank, transitional housing program (which is much more in depth than just a shelter), financial assistance (when appropriate), shelter housing, and a clothing warehouse. We support this program financially every month. I tell you this not to brag, but to explain where I'm coming from on this one. I want to justify logically that giving financially is enough...but I know it's not. I have even thought of stopping one day and offering to take one of these people to lunch. I want to tell them that I will buy them lunch if they will let me interview them. I want to know their thought process and why they are ok with sitting on the corner holding a sign instead of creating a business. I want to know what kind of hurt has happened to them that they feel all they are worthy of is holding a sign asking for handouts. I want to know why they admit their situation sucks, but don't want to do anything to change it.
When I was preparing for my black belt test, I struggled with a lot of self-doubt in my abilities, but I had (and still have) people that believed in me when I struggled to believe in myself. With a lot of prayer and practice and encouragement, I did it. I worked through the fears. Is that what these people need? Is that enough? Do they just need someone to believe in them and to be their voice of confidence until they understand that God made them on purpose? I don't know. I don't have the answers and I'm afraid to get my hands "dirty" by engaging these people. That's the truth of the matter for me. I give money to the people that are willing to engage in order that I can justify in my mind that I am helping. I do have an idea that I truly believe would help...but I'm not ready to share yet.
This is what I'll leave you with today: I didn't look away when she saw me. I held her gaze for that brief moment and smiled at her. Not a cheesy, creeper kind of smile, but a smile that I hope conveyed to her that I see her.
I'd love feedback on this issue. Please feel free to comment below. Have you been there? Are you still there now? This is not an issue that is fixed on a big scale. It's fixed on a one on one scale.
Choose to make it a beautiful day, friends.
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