1 Peter 4:8 But before all things have a constant mutual charity among yourselves: for charity covereth a multitude of sins.
I have always been a sucker for homeless people. If they ask, I give. Not always, but almost always. Last year when our family went to Massachusetts, I brought about twenty American one dollar bills to give away to street people. We were only in Boston for one day, and I managed to give it all away before the day's end. My preference of course, is to give food rather than money, but sometimes it seems right to hand over a little cash.
This afternoon, it seemed right. We were walking in downtown Vancouver, very close to Hastings Street where the homeless people congregate in very large numbers, and it wasn't long before we met our first destitute soul.
He was dressed shabbily, a little unkempt, with bright blue eyes and a friendly but worn-looking face. He put his hands into the wire mesh of the ten foot protective fence and asked if we knew where he could find a job. He had just moved from Ontario, hoping to find work in BC, he said. I asked him what kind of work he did, and he replied that he had worked in the housing industry, and had used up all his cash on a place to stay and was now running short on food. He never once asked for money, instead, he spent about ten minutes trying to get information on how and where he could find work in the city. I told him that Saint Joseph was the patron saint of workers, and asked him to pray to Saint Joseph. Then I gave him five dollars and his face lit up. "That's enough for bread and peanut butter," he said, and thanked us for the kindness as he hurried away.
A few blocks later, a man with a plaid jacket and a beard approached us with drool on his lips and a rather bouncy step that was reminiscent of drug use, most likely crack or crystal meth. He was having a hard time trying to raise the fifteen dollars he needed for a night at the YMCA. He apologized for not being able to play the guitar as some street people do to make a living. He said most people had refused to help him, and pleaded with us to give him fifteen dollars. We gave him four. As he turned away, he said, "God bless you." Did he spend it on drugs? I have no idea, but that is between him and God.
It was cold outside and we decided to take refuge in Starbucks. A woman who had just crossed the street ran up to me as we walked towards the entrance. She was probably in her thirties, but looked ten years older. She reached out, but stopped just short of grabbing my arm. "I'm not homeless," she said. "I'm hungry. Can you give me any money for food?" I asked her when was the last time she had eaten. She said, "Yesterday."
I said, "Come with me. I will buy you something to eat." There was no grocery store around, so we went into Starbucks and she chose a strawberry Frappucino and an oat bar. Together, we waited at the counter while her order was prepared. She told me she had run out of food and was hoping to get some money for groceries. She kept a smile on her face as we waited, and thanked me before she rushed back out into the street with her drink and her oat bar. I hope she found someone else to buy her some bread and peanut butter.
I don't know if these three people were telling me the truth about their situations, but it doesn't matter. They were clearly dysfunctional and destitute, and I was happy to give them what little bit of help I could.