I haven't blogged in forever because I forgot how to log-in. But today I went through the hoops with Google and here I am! Usually when I'm inspired to write a blog something on my mind is bothering me or has disturbed me somehow and I want to try to process it in words. Other times it may be an "aha!" moment that I likewise want to further internalize by crafting a thought or idea into words. Today is more of the former.
As colder weather moves in and the holiday approaches, people are supposedly more in the "giving
spirit. We also may be more acutely aware of the plight of those around us who are without homes or shelter when the temperatures plunge. Living in this city, there is not a day that goes by that I do not pass or encounter people on corners or at gas stations with signs asking for help. There are many attitudes, opinions, and approaches for how people respond to such encounters and I think I'm still trying to figure out what mine is. However, something I heard on the radio yesterday really rubbed me the wrong way. A prominent morning show team was discussing how one of its members had been "offended" by a homeless person the day before. This radio personality had been with her young family members and they saw a man asking for food. She stated that she wanted to teach the kids about being "giving" and "generous" and so they had gone to a fast food restaurant to purchase a hot dog, fries, and drink for the man. When they returned to give him the food, he told them that he did not eat pork. The radio host thought this was very offensive and said she had to refrain from "going off" on him. The morning show team proceeded to laugh and joke about the ungratefulness of the homeless man and pass judgement on how he couldn't have really been hungry if he were refusing their "kindness" and food. The radio host was very indignant and disparaging toward the man who had the audacity to refuse her great act of "kindness" and charity.
The condescending, judgmental, self-righteous tone of the whole segment really bothered me for some reason and caused me to take a moment of self-reflection about my own attitudes towards our homeless neighbors. There was something so dehumanizing about the whole thing. It implied that just because someone is homeless they have lost all rights to any kind of choice in the matter of what they eat or receive in the name of "charity" or "giving". I have a home, therefore I am entitled to have a choice on whether I eat pork or not, whether I feel like McDonald's or Chipotle, or whether I can pick the jalepenos off my pizza. You are homeless, therefore you better accept with gratitude and graciousness whatever I in my huge act of generosity and benevolence have decided to get you. Never mind that there might be a medical or personal reason you don't eat pork. See, this type of giving is more about "us" than "them". We want to feel good about ourselves and pat ourselves on the back for being so compassionate and kind and giving. But the thing is, either we should either give for the sake of giving or not at all. Just because we may be better off financially doesn't mean we are better than them or that we get to decide how they live their lives, what they should eat, or what they should be willing to accept. They are still human beings just like us. Let's not demean them or dehumanize them by acting pompous and self-righteous and offended that they didn't kiss our feet in gratitude for our act of "kindness" that was actually selfishly-motivated in the first place. If it were really done out of concern or a Christ-like compassion for the person, perhaps they would have had a conversation with the man first. Treated him like a person. Asked him what he might like to eat. Respected the fact that as a human being he may still have likes and dislikes and preferences even if he doesn't have a house, job, or car. Allowed him a tiny shred of dignity in the matter. The poor may not have wealth, but they still deserve dignity. It’s time to think about not only what we give and how we give it, but
also why we give it. Just because it makes us feel better doesn’t mean it’s the best for those
in need.If our giving is conditional, then it's better to not give at all. I don't know what choices the man had made in his life to end up on a
street asking for food but that's not my business or doesn't determine
my treatment of him. He's not less than me no matter how different our
paths or situations may have been.
And one more thing. Our giving should not be contingent on whether people are grateful and appreciative or not. God blesses ungrateful people including me every day. Where would I be if He stopped giving to me every time I acted ungrateful? True, maybe the man was ungrateful. But that's not up to us to determine and should not be a criterion for showing true concern or genuine compassion. Real compassion doesn't care about a "thank you."
As we go into this season of giving, I challenge all of us to take a closer look at our motives and our hearts and really think about WHY we are giving. Is it so we can feel better about ourselves and pat ourselves on the back for being such good, kind, thoughtful people? So we can check off our good deed box on the checklist and feel all warm and fuzzy as we disappear back into our privileged lives? So others can applaud us for our acts of charity? Let's make sure our giving is unconditional and untainted by selfishness, judgment, disrespect, and entitlement. Let's make sure we never reduce people to just the object of our charitable acts but take time to see them as living, breathing humans with feelings, likes, dislikes, dignity, and self-respect just like us. I'd rather not give at all than make another person feel less than human or small in the process.
11 hours ago