In Atlanta (as in most cities I’m sure) there are some intersections and off-ramps notorious for pan-handlers and people trying to get your money for nothing. The evolution of this practice has actually spiraled into exploitation… exploitation of the drivers that is. I know I certainly feel like there’s an attempt to exploit my conscience every time someone approaches my car with a sad look or hard luck story. And just when I develop a hardened heart towards what I perceive as people pimping my conscience’s sympathy card, out come the kids who need money for their football, baseball or basketball team’s trip to the national championship; or worse yet, the churches and ministries for former drug addicts.
Think back to the early ‘90’s when bums and crack-heads would run up to your car and spray your windows and ask for spare change. I recall the solution they used going from full-strength window cleaner to watered-down window cleaner to water… I even encountered a guy so slick that he’d use something greasy first to mess up your window then use window cleaner to clean up his mess before you could get out and beat him down. Today though, you have groups of something for nothing-minded people who try to guilt you into giving to them, just because you’re in a nice air-conditioned or heated car.
The kids can usually get a reluctant dollar (or two) from me because I do love the kids… but that dollar (or two) would be given far less reluctantly if the kids gave me something (aside from a word of thanks) for my money. I once happily bought 5 bottles of cold water (that I didn’t need) from some kids running around in traffic with coolers. These kids had it right… they weren’t out there with a sense of entitlement to MY money, they were out there hustling and I willingly rewarded them.
Evidently the practice of begging is profitable, because I see more and more people and now even churches with baskets on the streets. I find this quite bothersome. CHURCHES… out on the streets… BEGGING FOR MONEY!! Oh you can call it whatever you want, it still amounts to begging. And it makes me wonder about these churches’ doctrines, values and ideals. What happened to the fish fry or rib sandwiches or chicken dinners? Who did away with the rummage sales and bake sales for simply begging? How about having a concert or play and raising an offering? Something… anything… would be better than walking up and down the intersection with buckets.
I was so bothered by people begging me for money that I asked my pastor what I should do; and he responded to ‘follow my heart’. I realized in his response that it’s a fine line between being a cheerful giver to ‘the least of these’ and being duped by ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’; especially the ones whom you see regularly. I know the scripture says the ‘poor will be with you always’ and I also follow The Word when it commands me to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and quench the thirst of the parched; but I’ve yet to read scripture that commands me to fund the broke daily. We’re supposed to pray for OUR daily, but with so many people’s hands being out it looks like we’re gonna need to ask for a few more slices. Consequently MY heart frequently says to me “… I have never seen the righteous forsaken, nor His seed beg bread”. However, sometimes my spirit speaks to me and I’ll break my ‘bread’, but I am a tough sell…
The bottom line is everyone has a story to tell. Every member of the middle-class (or lower) could appeal for money with a sad, hard-luck story. Hard-luck stories and situations are the driving forces behind the building of some of America’s greatest successes. So until someone enacts a law forbidding begging at stop lights or off-ramps, I’ll just keep acting like I’m on the phone or that my window won’t roll down or that I just don’t see them. But all I know is that they better STEP… AWAY… FROM MY CAR!!!!!!