A few days ago I saw the perfect expression of how charity can destroy dignity, and how charity does not empower the poor.
I had taken an offramp from the highway and was stopped at the traffic lights. There was a lady with a child, sitting on the side of the road, begging. A motor biker had also taken the same offramp and pulled up beside me. He looked over and saw the lady begging and reached into his pocket to grab some money.
As he looked up from his pocket the light had changed, and so he started to pull off, still with the money in his hand. When the lady couldn’t get to him in time to take the cash he simply threw the money at her. The cash landed on the road and the lady had to walk across to pick it up.
This little interaction made me sad. The thoughts that crossed my mind were “did that really help her?” And “did he even care?”
I tried to imagine what that poor lady thought or felt. Can you imagine the emotional rollercoaster that she was on? If it were me, I would have been relieved and grateful to see this man reaching into his pocket and holding out some money for me. But the moment that he threw it, I would have been destroyed. It would be bad enough that I had to resort to begging – that is incredibly humbling in and of itself – but now this man didn’t even have the time to hand me the money. He just threw it at me. I would have felt so small and insignificant and worthless. I would have been broken.
I tried to imagine what that motor biker would have thought or felt. And I don’t want to presume on him or judge him, but it’s hard not to. The only thing I can imagine is that he was running late for something and that he just didn’t have a moment to spare and that he regretted having to throw the money, but what else could he have done?
The point of this is not to pity the lady or judge the man, but rather to highlight society’s attitude towards charity. We feel that someone in need requires money, and that if we’ve given money, we’ve done enough. But I would suggest that giving money is not enough, perhaps we should also be giving time.
At this point I must admit my own guilt – I didn’t do anything to change the situation. I easily could have parked my car for 5 minutes to chat to this lady. I could have taken the time to hear her story and share mine. But I didn’t. Much like the biker I was on my way somewhere and was too busy to stop and give my time. Perhaps the least I could have done is give her some money.
I think the main thing that I drew from this experience was that it’s easy to see problems in others, but not so easy to correct the problems in yourself. As much as I was bitterly disappointed with the biker, he helped highlight an area in my life that needs work. We’ve been going through a series at church about giving, called “Give One“, and the issue of giving is the crux of that series. This makes me think that maybe I’m hearing the message, but that it hasn’t transformed me just yet. I need to work harder at implementing the things I hear at church and actually become more like Jesus.