Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Why we hate panhandlers


I hate to have to tell you this, but we do not have a commendable system of homeless shelters.  First stop for most is the former PIP shelter, which is a complete disaster - unsupervised, dangerous, filthy, degrading and with rules that trap people, leave them unable to do anything except scrounge for the food the "Triage Center" is supposed to provide but doesn't.  

Shutting the Willis Center and turning its family shelters over to SMOC will make the problems even worse.

The number one reason given me by sign-holders for begging is to get enough money to stay out of the shelters - to keep a roof over their heads.  Many are on SSI and aren't getting enough to cover rent.  

If you are a Christian, giving to beggars when you can is necessary for your soul.  No way out of it.  When a beggar makes eye contact with you, you are confronted with an immediate choice between Heaven or Hell.  In the instant you choose to turn away you are plunged into a conversation of self righteousness, self-justification, blaming and denying the equivalence between yourself and the beggar in the eyes of God.  In that moment you have committed yourself to living in darkness.  

If you're not a Christian, at least when you turn from the panhandler and deny his humanity you're not being a hipocrite , yet your choice is the same.  You don't have to believe in the choir of angels or the pit of fire to experience this immediate choice between living right now in the love of your fellow beings or living in a state of blame, complaint and self-pity that trends toward hate.  

Next time you turn away from a beggar, notice what goes on for you right then -  how it shapes how you see and experience everything.  

Then, just for once, try making eye contact, giving a dollar and a friendly "good luck brother", and notice the state that leaves you in, how you feel about the world and about yourself. 

Giving that dollar is really a gift to yourself.  It's the gift of allowing yourself to live for that moment as a full human being, despite all the traps and snares of life in a corrupt, dog-eat-dog empire built on greed and exploitation.

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