Sunday, March 22, 2009

Judging Without Reason

Yesterday my mom and I were out shopping for a baby shower gift for a very good friend of mine. This is a friend whom I have known since high school, she is my daughter's Godmother and her family is like my 2nd family. In fact, it is because of this friend that I have a love affair with all things Mexican food, because I spent many, many hours hanging out in and working in her mom's Mexican restaurant.

So, as mom and I were leaving Target after a successful shopping trip, I noticed a man helping a woman by the side of the road. She got in her car and left and this man walked back to the little 'island' in the middle of the exit lane and sat back down with his backpack and sign.

Now Bend has many homeless and I have noticed an increase in panhandling over the past year probably due to the increase in homelessnes, loss of jobs, homes, hope, etc. I have been guilty of making snap judgements about those I see holding signs and asking for help, the most common being 'if I give them money they will probably just spend it on cigarettes or alcohol.' I am not proud of this because honestly, I don't know the person's story, or why they need the money. And, I don't know exactly when it was that I was hit over the head with the realization that I was in fact judging based on a sterotype, but I was mortified and disgusted with myself.

I know that even in the 'lean' months, I have more than most people in the world. Yes, IN. THE. WORLD. And, am I not called as a Christ follower to help the needy? God doesn't tell me to help only the needy who don't stand on a street corner and hold a sign, but to help all of the needy. And He doesn't call me to help the needy only when it's convenient for me to 'write a little something extra' in the tithe check. Maybe to me it's an inconvenient time, but to God, it's just stretching me a little.

And so, it started a few years ago that I asked God to just give me a good old prompt anytime He saw fit for me to help anyway I could.

I have driven past people holding signs, only to turn around and go back to give them food or money. I shop at a store where the homeless tend to hang out. I have walked out with my kids, our arms full of groceries, only to go back in so that I can buy some meals for them.

And just yesterday, when I pulled up to the man who had helped the woman, I felt the prompt. The crazy thing was when I was reaching for my mom was reaching for hers. I called him over to the car, gave him some money and drove off. When I looked at my mom I said, "I used to use the excuse they will just buy alcohol or cigarettes with the money. But that changed because when I feel like God is prompting me to help them, if I use that excuse, I am basically questioning God and that is not my place. I don't know what they will do with the money, but if God tells me to give, I'm going to." And my mom, who is one of the wisest women I know said, 'we were both prompted at the same time.'

My friend Helen did a post about judging without knowing and perhaps this is what prompted this. I don't give to get praise, but because I am so humbled by the graciousness of those in need. Every time I give,


sherri said...

Funny how when we give, especially following a "prompt" from HIM, WE also get a little something.
I enjoy the feeling I get when I know I've just done something I was supposed to do, regardless how large or small that something might be.

This was a great reminder to be watching and listening for those prompts.

Helen said...

I am glad you and your mom gave him some money. In this economy, especially, there is no telling how such devastation happened to a person's life. In this economy, we are all struggling a little more. Even the CEO's may have to give back their bonuses. ;-)

Diane said...

Great post! I learned a valuable lesson a long time ago about how you never know what brings a person to their particular place in life and a small act of kindness on your part can change things for them. It's served me well and I'm trying to pass that lesson on to my child.

katdish said...

That "prompt" I refer to as The Holy Spirit dwelling within us. My prayer is that I heed rather than ignore this prompting.

The young man who wrote "Under the Overpass" suggested keeping bottled water and chewy granola bars wrapped with ponytail holders in your car. Even if that is all you have, it is usually greatly appreciated.

Michelle said...

Terrific Annie! You and your mom are beautiful people!!! Feeling the prompt at the exact same time is very cool!!!

Screwed Up Texan said...

I agree that we dont always know what a person's intentions are to do with the kindness that we give them. Do we know if the money we give a panhandler is going to drugs or alcohol? No.

Although, I must say that while in Austin, Texas a couple weeks ago I got a huge laugh out of the panhandler standing in the median with a cardboard sign that read:


At least he was honest! :)