This nation that we live in has a lot of beggars. Many are refugees that fled here because of conflict in their native land.
When we first moved overseas, I was so overwhelmed and moved with compassion towards the beggars. When I saw beggars for the most part, I would always try to buy them some food or give them a couple of dollars. It was so heartbreaking. There were about 5 families on our street alone that would be daily begging for money and food. Rain or shine, they would be sitting there, with their infants and older children…just sitting there for hours on end.
In my head, I would picture me and my kids sitting there, on the cold concrete, on a cardboard box, having to beg and it always caused me to be SO THANKFUL for my blessed life because I know that I am no better than them.
One day, we were out walking in our neighborhood and this lady approached my family, begging for money. She wore dingy clothing and had a young child on her hip. The child’s hair was matted and she had on filthy clothing. I was so moved with compassion and wanted to make a difference in her day, so we gave her the equivalent of about $20.
Well that very quickly proved to be a big mistake.
Twenty US dollars can go pretty far here. It’s about a half a day’s wage if you get paid minimum wage.
As we began walking away, I saw the lady show another beggar the money we gave her. This adult male quickly rounded up 4 of his boys (whose ages ranged probably from 10-12). They came very close up to us begging for money with these sad looking faces.
When we refused to give them anything, they started very closely following us, they were relentless. When we walked into one store, they would also walk in. When we left and went to a different store, the same thing happened. They followed us into every store and would keep pestering us for money.
It was honestly pretty scary because we didn’t know what to do. In each store, we could see the adult male outside watching us and then his boys would come in and beg for money. We would try to get the store employees to help us. The employees would kick the kids out of the store, but as soon as we would walk out, they again came right up to us harassing us for money.
In that moment, boy, did I miss our minivan. We had no ability to close our window on these kids and drive away. They were like 1-2 feet away from our family just shadowing us for almost an hour!
Finally my husband and I agreed to just run back home as fast as we could (with our 5 kids in tow), in hopes that these kids and the guy with them would leave us alone. This was kind of scary to me though since then they would know where we live and I was wondering if they would be waiting outside for us each day… but thankfully our plan worked.
They stood outside of our apartment building for about 5-10 minutes and then they finally gave up and never came back.
This unsettling incident honestly disillusioned me a lot towards beggars. I don’t know if those people were refugees or not, but the aggressiveness of their approach really hardened my heart towards others.
Initially I just began ignoring the beggars.
After a little time, I felt like the Lord nudging me to not harden my heart towards the poor, so I began buying them snacks and drinks again.
But then over time, I noticed that often buying drinks and snacks for the beggars can be more inconvenient than just giving them money, especially if I am on my way to go somewhere.
I am focused, I have a destination, that destination often does not include stopping at the grocery store and getting someone food…so then another beggar gets passed by me.
Or often, I am walking to the grocery store, I see a beggar and literally think, “Ok, remember to buy a snack for them,” but then as soon as I walk into the grocery store, I already forget because I am so focused on my list of things to buy.
Then I walk out of the grocery store with my gazillion bags, and I see them again. I want to kick myself for forgetting to buy a snack for them, because now it’s too inconvenient to walk back to the store with my heavy bags and everything in my bags I need for different meals for my family, so yet again another beggar gets overlooked by me.
The Lord often reminds me of this verse in these moments.
Proverbs 19:17, He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and He will reward him for what he has done.
It is SO EASY to just want to quickly pass the many beggars on the streets here. It’s so easy to callous my heart and ignore their plight.
But I am reminded by the Father, that they matter…THEY MATTER SO MUCH TO HIM.
About a week ago, I was taking a 20 minute walk home with a heavy bag of stuff for our dinner that night. I heard a toddler cry out, so I turned my head. I saw this toddler with his mother and his mother was begging for money. The toddler seemed tired of sitting there and wanted to move around and his mom was trying to sooth him and get him to sit down. The streets here are very busy and crowded, so it isn’t really safe for a toddler to be running around.
In that moment, I just turned back around and walked right by them.
I had this heavy bag I was carrying, so I wanted to get home as quickly as possible to unload my stuff and get dinner started. After all, I have 5 hungry children waiting for me at home!
But as soon as I walked by them, I felt that familiar nudge from the Father to do something for that woman and child. He wasn’t asking me to do this big heroic thing, He was just asking me to do something…anything except ignore them.
Immediately I began rationalizing all the reasons why I had no time to stop for them that day. I was telling the Father, “Lord, I have this heavy bag, my kids are hungry and waiting, and I have no time to stop now!”
It’s funny how in a matter of just one minute, I thought of of 100+ excuses to rationalize my indifference.
As I kept walking, I passed a bread cart.
And then it hit me…”Why am I being so resistant about helping someone in need?!”
I had a ton of excuses that were filling my head, but then I finally admitted, “Why am I still hardening my heart?! Is it really THAT hard to pause what I am doing, to help this mother out?”
So I circled back around, bought some bread and juice, and gave it to her.
That bread and juice only cost me about $2.
I honestly didn’t care about spending the $2…I cared more about the “inconvenience” of stopping (which actually only took me about 5 minutes).
As I share this story, I am reminded, yet again, how foolish I am and how much I need Jesus.
God gives us opportunities every day to share His love. Our actions might go unnoticed by literally everyone in the world, but He sees. It will never go unnoticed by Him.