Why I Didn’t Help The Homeless

I just want to start off by saying, this is a post I wanted to write months ago when I saw a homeless man.  Today I was reminded of the same thoughts and the urge to write returned.

Please know that this post makes me feel vulnerable.  I’m keeping it real.  I’m not proud of the decision I made, and if I could go back I might do it differently.

Today I received some very bad news.  I didn’t want to be home by myself and reflect on it, so I decided it was a good day to look for furniture.  I’ve been in my new apartment for over a week now and my living room consists of two tables and two lamps – all of which were graciously given to me.

I’ve been looking at couches, and I knew it would be the perfect investment to make my apartment feel like a home.

I visited several stores and passed three different homeless men.

My heart was torn.

When I was about 8 years old, a man came into our church off the street.  I say church, it was really three families (including my own) that gathered for worship and fellowship.  This man said he needed help and his car ran out of gas down the road.

We all did our best to accommodate this man.  One of the dads went to get gasoline, another was asking where the car was located.  Then Mom turned to me and suggested that I give this man some of the money from our tithing piggy bank that I had started several weeks back for our small church.

There wasn’t much in it, but it made me happy to grab the piggy bank and present the money to our guest.  Without a word he reached his hand in and grabbed the dollar bills.  I was so proud.  God was working through me to help this man.  Then the dads rode down the road with him in search of his car to see if they could fix any car trouble he was having.

When the men returned, we discovered the man wasn’t confident when asked what the car looked like or where it was.  Almost as if he was making it up as he was asked.  When they stopped the car, he got out and went into the woods never to be heard from again.

We all assumed he had lied about the entire scenario.  I was crushed.  I felt like I had been used.

Several years later at the age of 15, I saw two men on the side of the road with backpacks and a dog.  They looked well off, but they had a sign saying they were traveling and needed money.  I gave my brother the ten dollars that I had, and he, in turn, gave it to the men – not at my request.

Mom was furious when she found out, saying they could have had a weapon or threatened us in some way.  She was right.  You have to be careful nowadays.  In addition to that, I realized that the men probably didn’t need the money in the first place.  If you can afford to travel with a dog on a leash, I’m not sure if you can consider yourself desperate.  I felt used again.

Anytime I see the homeless, these memories come flooding back.  Betrayal, used, lied to.  The emotions surge up, and I’m left wondering what the right thing really is.

One of the homeless men I saw today had a sign saying he was disabled.  I only had a few dollars, some change, and two protein bars.  I thought of giving this to him, but at the same time I was alone.  I didn’t feel safe approaching this man in the city by myself.

However, I had a feeling I was supposed to help.  He was sitting there alone, probably for countless hours.  So many cars drove by without stopping.

I didn’t have much; I was already panicking about finances.  But then, I was looking for a couch.

“A couch isn’t a need,” I thought to myself.  “If I can afford a couch, I can afford to help this man, right?  I don’t really need a couch.”

An internal battle raged.  If I didn’t help I was a bad person.  If I did help I didn’t have much to give.  Maybe he didn’t really need the money; maybe it was a scam.  Maybe he was dangerous.  I was alone, but it was daylight in a public area.  I thought God was telling me to help, so not helping would be disobeying, right?

I pulled into a nearby parking lot to consider my options.  I pulled out the protein bars with every intention of giving them to him when I realized: I didn’t feel safe.

I thought the internal battle would stop.  It didn’t.

I was afraid God would judge me.  He’s a loving God, I know, but this was my fear.

“God can’t judge me if I don’t feel safe,” I thought to myself.

I drove past the man again.

Can God judge me?  If He was really telling me to do this, He would keep me safe, right?

I planned to go back later when I had a friend with me, but by then the man was gone.

I regretted my decision for the rest of the afternoon.