A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were downtown catching a performance by our friend Francesca Battistelli at the Rutledge (also discovered an amazing band called Civil Twilight while we were there). After the show we were walking out to the car to head home when a homeless woman named Shirley quickly tracked us down. I’ve had several encounters with homeless people in downtown Nashville and actually look forward to such instances. However, it had been a while so we were caught off guard and unprepared. Many homeless people have a similar routine. They try to overwhelm you with fast speech and random stories in the hopes that the disorienting effect will cause you to just hand over the cash so you can be left alone. I’ve made it a rule not to give cash anymore to homeless people but to actually take the time to listen to them, find out what they really need, and supply that need to the best of my ability (assuming it isn’t something damaging or illegal). On this occasion, we broke our rule and ended up giving this lady a ride and some money. Looking back on things, we understand that our greatest fault was the fact that we were not prepared for an encounter with Shirley. Though we did get to speak to her about Jesus, we came away from the experience feeling defeated. In the end, we felt like we hurt Shirley more than helping her. So here’s the question of the week:
Should we or should we not give cash to the homeless?