Can I offer Change?

It was within the first week of moving.  I still had out all my feelers about everything, always wondering if I was in a safe place or not.  I had to run out to the library to do some emailing/business meeting kind of thing, and they closed.  I started heading out for Barnes and Noble, so I could finish up my work.  It was getting dark-ish and the vehicle was running on empty.  Uh-oh.

I pulled into the closest gas station even though I probably wouldn’t have chosen the area if I would have been sure of having enough gas to get me somewhere else.  Breathing prayers for safety, I jumped out of the vehicle.  An older guy hoping to make a buck was hanging out at the gas station and offering to pump gas.  “I’ll get that for you ma’am.”

“No, I’m fine,” I replied.

“I’ll put the gas in your car and you can stay sitting.”

“No, thanks.”

He walked right up to me, close enough that he was invading my personal space and said, “Here, I’ll do it.”

“No, I’ve got it,” I said firmly.

He stood there for a second, mubled, “Okay,” and walked over a few yards.

I was keeping my eye on him when a super-large lady rode up on a motorized wheelchair.  “Could you give me a little money, please?”

“No, I’m sorry.”

“Please, Miss, I just need a few dollars.”

“No, I’m not going to give money, but is there something else I can help you with?”

“I need a little money…so I can….run up to the grocery store to get…some food for my nine-year old daughter…she’s sick.”  It was very obvious she was making up the tale as she was talking, but I decided to show her a little love.

“Well, I can get some food for you.  What do you need?”

“Oh, but I just need some money.”

“No,” using my firm mama voice again, “I’ll go into the gas station and buy you some food if you really need it.”

Realizing there wasn’t going to be cash, she tried to make the best of it.  “Oh, I want a bag of Doritos and a can of Vienna Sausages and a Big Red soda.”

[gag]

“Okay, well I don’t know if I’ll get you all of that, but I’ll get you something.”

I had parked pretty far from the gas station and I wasn’t about to leave the computer in the vehicle way out there, so, not realizing that it would appear as though I was driving off, I started climbing in to move the vehicle to the front of the station.

Suddenly her pitiful tones changed to a commanding yell, “Git Back HERE, GIRL!

“Whatever,” I thought to myself and eased up to the store.

Inside I looked around for something remotely healthy, but there was nothing in this tiny joint.  I grabbed a can of Vienna Sausages–definitely the first time I’d bought them–and headed for the checkout.  I was a little nervous because the guy who had wanted to pump my gas and another loiterer were hanging out next to my vehicle.  I waited in line as one person bought a pack of cigarettes and a lottery ticket.  The next teenage-looking customer bought a beer.  While he was waiting, another guy came in and he and the cashier did some super-fast hand transaction with only a glance and not a word exchanged.  After I’d made my purchase, I was thankful to find everything in tact outside.

I drove out to the road where my lady was waiting, hoping for more sympathy.  She was parked on the right side of my vehicle, and feeling insecure and all, I didn’t feel like getting out of it again.  I showed her the can of sausages and gestured for her to come over and get it.  She gestured back that she couldn’t because of her wheelchair.  Feeling a little peeved that she was probably lying again, I quickly jumped out and ran the can over to her.  “Oh, thank you so much!!!!  You are just the sweetest thing.  Thank you.  Thank you.”

I said a few sweet things in return and jumped back into my vehicle to go.  But before I could change gears, her wheelchair suddenly worked fine and I waited as she slowly moved in front of me to leave the gas station first.

My brain was doing some spinning.

Later that night a guy scowled into my window when I declined opening it to give him a handout.

The next day I made a quick stop at Family Dollar a few blocks from our house.  There was a homeless guy sitting outside.  “If you have any spare change when you come out, I’d appreciate it.”

“I’ll see.”

I didn’t want to give him change.  Most often we choose not to give money, but we do help when we can. It was a very hot day, so I bought him a cold drink.  I came out and handed it to him sure he would be so happy for a refreshment.  Instead he stared at it, slowly reached for it and not at all masking the disappointment asked, “You don’t have any change?”

Really?  You’re not thankful for a drink?  So I don’t want to judge motives, but I now I questioned why he did want money.  Was a drink showing him the love of Jesus if he didn’t want it?  I do think it was.  I think love is measured not on how it’s received, but how it’s given.   At the same time, I have lots of questions.

A few days later while stopped at a traffic light I watched a man receive a sandwich then hide it, so he could ask another passer-by for more.

There are people with good motives and genuine needs.  So much of homelessness is related to substance abuse.  Sometimes people really want deliverance, sometimes they don’t.  I really wonder what Jesus would want us to do.  The change that is asked for on street corners across America is paltry compared to the change Jesus wants to give.

I think sometimes Jesus would reach out His hand to bless.  He would ease a pain or eradicate an addiction.  I think sometimes He would say, “Turn away from your sin and come follow me.”  We don’t have the advantage Jesus has of seeing hearts.  Still I wonder if there aren’t times when a call to righteousness would be better than a cold drink.  I don’t know.  I only wonder.

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14 thoughts on “Can I offer Change?”

  1. Hey christy-thanx 4 takn the time to give all the info on atlanta. Definetly want to hit the park tomorrow n possibly the coke factory. We have our 8 wk old with us so were jus chilln today. Were thinkn wed like 2 go 2 barnes n noble 4 coffee tonight n wed LOVE 2 have you all join us if you don’t have plans the coffee n cheesecake is on us:)call us if u all are into that. Our cell#717554-4566 or 717-629-6632. No pressure but we wud enjoy meeting u all. We are in the buchead area on peachtree rd

    1. Lena, you guys blessed us to bits! Thank you so, so, so much! We both left saying we felt refreshed. And the gift…what can we say? Thank you so much!

  2. Wow, Christy! Such a challenge. Homeless people really intrigue me. I want to hear their story. The REAL one. Just last night, walking down the street here in Vegas, I saw a girl (and when I say girl, I mean that. She was young.) sitting on the sidewalks with paper and markers, drawing I guess, and a box with a sign that read “I accept pennies”. I wanted to stop and talk to her. Not give her pennies, but talk to her and find out what she was doing here, how she got here. I wonder what kind of life she was trying to escape, sitting here on the streets. Duane & I have a heart for the homeless (somewhere underneath our skeptisism when they beg for money, but don’t want food) but it really is hard to know what their real need is – what their real story is. Blessings to you as you continue to show love in Atlanta.

  3. Love this post. Love your thoughts. I need to think about my own heart…blessings to you! And we’re praying for you, too!

  4. Oh Christy . . . your life sounds so adventurous, although I’m sure it feels far from that most days. This post resonates with me, but I’m not sure I can verbalize my thoughts. One way it challenges me is your thought that love isn’t measured by how it’s received but by how it’s given. So often I view it the other way around, and then hesitate before offering help. Sad, I know.

    I laughed at the “Git back HERE GIRL!” I could just HEAR it being said.

  5. Keep asking the hard questions, lady! Ask Jesus, and He’ll guide you, for sure. Partly because your appearance makes you stand out as a “church lady”, you will continue to get lots and lots of such requests and demands. Sometimes I think– no, sometimes I KNOW!– folks are testing me, whether consciously or not, to see if I am what I appear to be. (Oh, and the longer you live in the city, the less dangerous the people around you will seem, even though they may not be entirely trustworthy! :))

    When we moved to the city, we were much advised to not give money away. “You don’t want to get started, because you’ll get taken advantage of.” “You never know what they’re gonna do with what you give them. They might use it on alcohol/drugs/cigarettes/_____.” “You need to be a wise steward.” Well, now, that last one I can agree with completely, but what if being a wise steward looks different than the accepted way of thinking? What about Matthew 5:42? or Luke 6:30, 34, 35? Or 2 Corinthians 8:13-14?

    One of the things we’ve done, living in the city, is to not carry cash or keep any in our home. (Debit card– our lifesaver!) So that if we are asked for cash, we can honestly say we have none on us/in our house. Which buys us time to try to discern and listen to Jesus case by case. But we both have, on occasion, run to the bank to give to a request. And though not all may agree with us, we feel that if we give, it is no longer “our money”, and so we are no longer responsible for its use. (Btw, it never was ours! cuz all we have is from Him and for Him!) If we gave as we felt Jesus was asking us to, that is all we’re responsible for. And when I feel called to give, I tell the recipient that I give this from Jesus, I give it in Jesus’ name and for His sake– both because I want them to experience His care and generosity AND because I would like to invite them to righteousness in the use of it.

    I think our “plain” background with its (generally good) emphasis on stewardship can sometimes mess us up here. We almost get TOO responsible sometimes. I have learned so much from watching my neighbors. If they have it and you don’t, they share it, because tomorrow they won’t, and you’ll share back. They live the above Scriptures so much better than we do! It’s completely shaken up what I learned growing up about giving.

    This has gotten way longer than I intended! But one more thing: Perhaps there are times when a call to righteousness would be better than a cold drink. On the other hand, that call to righteousness will usually be better received if the cold drink precedes or accompanies it. The cold drink can earn the trust that makes it possible for one to receive the call to righteousness. The change I spend on the cold drink for Jesus’ sake may be one tiny step in bringing the change He so longs to for to the receiver.

    Blessings on you and yours as you continue your Kingdom adventure in the city!

    1. Thanks for taking the time to write out all of that. From reading your response, I don’t think I really conveyed my heart in all of this. Or maybe we’re more on the same page than either of us realizes. Anyway. I like the verses you referenced. When I say policy…I mean Steve and Christy style which is not at all hard and fast. :) One thing I’m learning is that even though the needs are the same, each city also has its individuality within the needs, desperation, sense of entitlement and all.

      The call to righteousness….I was thinking about this when I was thinking of how we give to the same people over and over and over and over. They take. We give. With the City of Refuge contacts we mainly let them know when feeding that we’re available if they want help (clothing, hygeine, drug rehab, housing, jobs, whatever). They have to take initiative. It’s a way of filtering, I guess. Anyway, this is all totally my heart. It’s just that I think sometimes we are all about the compassion and gentleness of Jesus, and we forget the righteousness and judgment. Uhhh, not sure if this will make anymore sense or if I’m digging a deeper hole.

      1. I think we are on the same page. :) “The change that is asked for on street corners across America is paltry compared to the change Jesus wants to give.” It couldn’t be said better, and I see us both feeling our way through these things and feeling our inadequacies and questions and need for Holy Spirit guidance. And I don’t know how it is for you and Steve, but Jason and I occasionally don’t see a situation like this the same way…!! :/ And I think I follow you– it is indeed easy to fall into the ditch on either side when it comes to living both mercy and truth, but somehow it’s gotta be possible, ya know? Or Psalm 85 wouldn’t talk about mercy and truth meeting together and righteousness and peace kissing each other. (Don’t you love that picture?!) Maybe it’s what Lucy’s talking about– taking the time to listen more than anything. ?? I don’t always know…

        1. I wish I could convey how very merciful I actually feel toward these people….

          I am concerned about the food first philosophy. Like the food distribution center that always wants to be established in an area before a church is planted in that area. Why? Why doesn’t spiritual food come first?

          Sometimes [often] spiritual food is received better served along with tangible love, but that’s not the only pattern of Jesus. Sometimes he brought physical healing or food, sometimes he brought them along with spiritual, and sometimes it was just spiritual. That is what I was trying to say all along, and I think I’ve finally said it. :)

          With all that said, I find physical food much easier to hand out. I try to share God’s love along with that, but this is where I am looking for answers. How do I say anything that will have meaning?

  6. this was powerful. and i’m not sure what all i mean by that yet. :)
    but i do know that i am thinking about myself.
    how i know Him as Savior…
    and He wants me to know Him more.
    As Deliverer.

    1. I think when I see things so obviously in other people it gives me the kick I need to take a better look at myself. Like am I holding out my hand for the little blessing (sometimes a disguise for what I really want) I think I need, when God wants to change my heart and fill it with something much greater?

  7. What an interesting life in the big city! Thanks for sharing your experiences! I want to commit to pray for you through this coming week. If you have a specific need, email me… dansgirl77@gmail.com. I don’t think we can ever pray too much for each other and I KNOW we don’t pray enough!!
    God’s blessing to you and your hubby and kids!!

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