Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Least of These

I'm sure where we live is a lot like most places.  There are certain areas of our town where you're almost guaranteed to see homeless people or people asking for money- a lot of cardboard signs with sad stories scribbled across them. 

It's my usual custom to pass right by them, while trying not to make any eye contact.  Without fail, Carson would ask why we couldn't help them and I'd give him different variations of the same explanation....."If they're really hungry, there's a soup kitchen that serves 2 free meals a day and it's just a mile from here and, besides, most of these people are con artists and go straight to the liquor store with any money they get".  I mean, apparently, his young, naïve heart needed to be schooled in the ways of the world, right? 

Every time we were out and about together, I'd find myself giving him the same excuses.  "We help people in other ways," I'd explain to make myself feel better.  I'd rattle off the things we do with our money to help others as we drove right past the homeless, the dirty, and the disheveled.  I noticed he was never satisfied with my answers though.  He'd stare out his car window at them and I could tell he was grappling with the whole thing.

One day, I started feeling dissatisfied with my own answers.  Surely, I was being convicted about it.  I thought about Carson and how Davis and I have always known that God has, undoubtedly, given him the gifts of compassion, giving, and serving others.......and there I was throwing cold water on a fire that was put inside of him by the Good Lord himself.  That's certainly not something you want to be caught doing as a parent. 

I saw an idea online of packing one gallon storage bags with everything from a washcloth, soap, tooth brush and toothpaste, nail clippers, Slim Jims, peanut butter crackers, wipes, Pop-Tarts, applesauce, etc. and keeping them in your car for times when you encounter someone asking for help.  We went shopping for items like that and made a stack of care packages.  Carson thought it would be a good idea to include a Bible verse and he had a couple that he thought were appropriate.......

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you.  Don't be discouraged, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you.  I will hold you up with my right hand."
Isaiah 41:10
"For God so loved the world; He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." 
John 3:16
We printed them out and put the box full of bags into our car. 

This week, we've handed out three so far.  In all three cases, I could see that it gave him so much joy to do something......anything for them. 

I've been thinking about all of that a good we allow life to harden us as we get older.  We've been around the block a time or two and we've seen some things.  We've heard the news and the stories of fraud.  We've had friends who've been burned before.  We've watched the government pour our money into welfare programs and we've seen the abuse of that in our checkout lines.  We wonder how anyone, this day and time, could possibly be in need with all the safety nets we have in place.  And, if we're not careful, we can become cynical, suspicious, cold, and unmoved. 

As Carson has passed those bags through our car window this week, I've had the chance to look into the eyes of the recipients.....the grateful recipients, I might add.  I don't know the story behind their eyes.  I don't know if they're legit or if they're taking us all for a ride.  I just know that they're God's children, too, and my son's heart wanted to do something for them and who was I to tell him he shouldn't.  I don't ever want to be a roadblock on a path that God has called my children to travel and I feel like that's exactly what I was being. 

I guess it would do us good to try and see the world more like our children do........before the callouses of time and experience started to grow.  Before our hard opinions formed and life started to create a tough shell around us.  Sometimes, it takes young eyes to point out things that ours can no longer see. 

This is not a post about what a great kid we have or what good parents we must be or how nice we are to help and I don't want any comments left to that effect.  No, this is just about how I had become blinded by my own cynical ideas of who was worthy of our help and who wasn't, but my son's fresh eyes have given me a new perspective.

He has reminded me of something that I once knew.....something that I'd just forgotten.

Give the cup of cold water and God will do the judging. 
"Then He will answer them,
'I assure you:
           Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did
         not do for Me either.' "
Matthew 25:45
(Going to market for a few days, so I'll see you next week when I get back!)

Have a great weekend!


  1. Powerful post Joni, you made the right decision for Carson, to help the needy through his eyes. A writer in my Sunday paper decided to do the same thing with her young teenage son too. Does a ~soul~ good, Kathleen in Az
    Have fun at the market, buying Fall goods?

    1. It's been a joy for both of us, Kathleen. And we had a great trip, but glad to be home! :)

  2. Please tell Carson thank you for making me realize I need to be helping others instead of being cynical of their situations! Powerful, convicting post. Thank you,

  3. Great post, Jone. Living in Atlanta, it becomes commonplace to be cynical and look right past the people I see who may really need help. I would love to see you while you're in town for market!

    1. Oh, Ginger. Downtown Atlanta has a plentiful supply of homeless, for sure. I can understand how it would be easy to not think much about it there.

      I would have loved to see all of you, Atlanta transplants, but I was so exhausted by the time we got out each evening. Blair clocked us at 16,000 steps each day and I was feeling every one of them by 6:00! Maybe in January we can all do dinner!

  4. Are you sure you can't read my mind? You described my feelings perfectly, better than I could have done myself! Clear down to the unsettled feeling I get when I 'pass by on the other side'. I like your conclusion and surely you are watering that God-given compassion in your son's heart. Wonderful post.

    1. Yvette, we seem to be on the same page about a lot of things. :) Thanks for your kind words.

  5. How wonderful! We do this, too! I keep ziploc baggies in my car and we also include a bottle a water. I can't think of a better way to teach our children to do SOMETHING even when we can't fix the entire situation. I have been on government assistance and am very grateful for the safety nets in place...but they are set up in such ways that so many still fall through the net.

    1. The water is a good idea, Missy June! We find ourselves looking around for good bag contents whenever we go to the store now. It's been a joy!

  6. I love this post and Carson's sweet heart! I used to be the person who would walk right by people, avoiding eye contact because it made me uncomfortable. A few years ago, a friend of mine was volunteering full time at a homeless shelter in Chicago. When I visited him, I had the opportunity to spend the night at the shelter and I still cannot think about it without tears in my eyes. Lots of those people were there due to drugs and alcohol, sure; but lots had just had some bad luck, too. While I LOVE the idea of handing out bags full of stuff, I don't have a car and am mostly on foot, so I just try to keep a bunch of ones in my pocket. I realized that God wasn't asking me to determine whether anyone was asking for money for the right reasons; he simply asked me to love them. So I try to offer a couple of dollars whenever I have it on me. If I don't, I'm sure to make eye contact and say, "God bless you." While that's hard for me as a person who is naturally shy and avoids strangers and awkward situations whenever possible, it has been worth it to see the gratitude in the eyes of people who aren't always acknowledged as another human being.

    I will end this novel now, sorry! I'm not trying to toot my own horn, this is just something that God has laid greatly on my heart. I never expected to find myself overnight in an inner-city Chicago shelter, but God knows what he's doing and how that experience would change my life and my heart. God bless you, Joni!

    1. Wow...I bet that was an eye-opener, Brandi. I imagine there are thousands of ways that people can end up in that situation. Glad that made such an impression on your life. You're right.....sometimes, God teaches us through our experiences and, sometimes, even through our children :)