I’ve never been very good at passing people on the street who are begging for money. My instinct is always to give whatever I happen to have on me, which isn’t often much but is at least something. I certainly prefer giving items other than cash, but sometimes that is all you have. Some time ago I developed a habit of not carrying around any cash, for a couple of reasons, none having to do with not having any money to give if asked. I don’t like having money so easily out of my accounting flow, meaning it is harder to keep track of what you spend with cash than it is using some card. I also tended to use cash for much less than appropriate things when I had it, and not carrying cash helped remove that temptation.
So the problem is that people begging for money is a whole different thing. I do know there is the injunction in the scriptures to give all you have to the poor, and be justified to not give if you do not have, and part of me is concerned that I continue not carrying cash so I don’t feel that I need to give. The more rational part of me thinks this is somewhat absurd, as I’d not been in areas that had any homeless anywhere in the places I went. Living away from large cities will do that. But now I work in downtown Salt Lake City, and it is pretty impossible to ignore the people wandering about hoping for some help.
How do I steel myself, to be able to see people obviously in need and be able to say to them “I can’t give”? Do I even want to make my heart cold to those pleading for help? Is this just part of the cost to my heart every day to work in this area? I’m not one of those who think these people should “just get jobs” or should just “pull themselves up” – throughout my life I have been the recipient fo help from others when things were tight, and I am still trying to improve the management of what funds I do have so there is always enough, no matter what happens. I don’t know why people resort to begging, and it is not my job to judge them one way or another. Money doesn’t ever seem enough, though I don’t have the time to try to fix the world.
Am I just too softhearted?