Late this afternoon I responded to a knock at the door. A man greeted me warmly and explained to me that he was trying to earn money to stay at the Union Gospel Mission homeless shelter in St. Paul. He offered me his drivers license, social security card and Union Gospel Mission ID card as proof of his integrity. He offered to complete chores around my home such as pulling weeds etc. in exchange for money.
I excused myself and reached into my wallet pulling out a $10 bill. I told him to take the money for a night at the shelter. The bed is $6 and a locker $3. I noted a rolling suitcase on the sidewalk. He thanked me and went on his way.
So was I taken in by this man’s elaborate charade? I really don’t care. I know that many of my friends and acqaintences would chastise me for giving money. “He’ll use it to buy drugs, alcohol or cigarettes. ” Don’t nominate me for sainthood yet, because I didn’t empty my wallet as the woman in the temple did. But it is these types of situations that serve as a reminder to me that everything in life, including my personal income is a gift. By accepting these gifts we are called to care for the least among us.
In a column by Archbishop Harry Flynn published in the Catholic Spirit newspaper in 2005, he addresses a then recent decision to give money to a man begging at a stoplight.
“I decided that if I died that night and met Jesus Christ, I would rather have Jesus Christ say to me: “You were a victim of a scam,” rather than, “You passed someone by who was really hungry and needed your help.”
I wholeheartedly agree.