Dilemma at the Intersection: How to best help the
by Steve Blanchard, Associate Pastor, Christian Compassion
It is almost impossible to pull up to any major intersection in the metro
area and not encounter someone holding a sign that says, “Hungry. Homeless.
Anything Will Help. God Bless” or “Homeless Veteran. God Bless you” or any
other of a dozen like signs. The question for most people is whether to
ignore them, look the other way, or to crack the window and sneak out a few
coins or maybe even a dollar. Either way, for many people, their conscience
nags at them. And it is relatively easy to take the quick and simple way out
and give them money. It is, however, what they really want and it makes us
feel better. Right? But is that what is really best for the person on the
receiving end? Is that what is really best for us as someone who wants to do
the right thing. Without engaging in stereotypes, becoming judgmental, or
coming up with a blanket response to deal with the individuals personal
situation, let’s look at some potential and helpful ways of making a
1. First of all, that person on the corner is an individual, one of God’s
children. A person who most likely desires respect, love, and dignity. Take
a moment from your hurried life and give them just that. Talk to them,
introduce yourself, engage them in a brief conversation, look them in the
eye and show them that you are not just another passerby.
2. In your conversation listen for the need. Sometimes a person is
hungry or really wants a job. Sure, they will take money but maybe that is
not what they really want. Of course, the opposite is true as well.
Sometimes they say they want food or a job when all they want is money. It
is hard to discern this in just a few moments but we still must listen with
our ears, our mind and our spirit.
3. If the person is truly hungry, consider taking them to lunch and
having a conversation or at least going to buy them lunch and bringing it to
them. It may not be that you cannot trust them by giving them money but
there may be others watching. And the fact that others know that person has
cash in their pocket may make them an easy target later on. If they want a
job, consider hiring them to do a small job at your home or in the
community. Working for your pay is, for most people, still a pathway to
4. Know what services are available in the community that might meet
a variety of needs presented by an individual. Offer to make a phone call or
maybe even a ride to a service provider if done so in a safe manner. Check
out other information on this web site regarding some of the services
available in our community.
5. Do not make promises you are not going to keep.
6. Be honest.
7. Do not suppose you know the person’s situation. Do not engage in
stereotypes or generic solutions that you use to just get away from the
8. Face the fact that there are some you cannot help, in fact, that
person has to want help first and foremost. You can walk alongside them but
you cannot do it for them. Let them take the lead in their decisions and
9. Decide how much you want to get involved. Most people’s lives are
complex to say the least, and you will find that the initial need presented
is usually but the tip of the iceberg. Know your strengths as well.
10. Finally, pray before you engage. Ask God’s direction. Maybe God
does direct you to give money and walk away but make sure it is God’s voice
you hear. Be God’s presence to that person. Maybe the best you can offer is
a handshake and a prayer but whatever it is, make it sincere