Many times people will ask me, "What do you do when you see a person on the street corner with a sign asking for help? Do you give them money or something else?" Then they say, "I don't like to give to 'those people' because I'm sure they are just going to go buy drugs or alcohol." My reply has always been, "When I give someone money, once that exchange is made from my hand to theirs I cannot judge what they will do with it but I believe in helping others, I always have and I guess it is up to you how you reply."
Recently I read a devotional from Christ in our Home that spoke to this very topic. If you did not get a chance to read it, let me share what it said:
I often see a certain man at various street corners, always holding the same sign: 'Please help. God bless.' At first I gladly helped, but now I have mixed emotions when I encounter him. I avert my eyes. I hope the stoplight will change so I can drive away. I wonder how he might use the money. I judge him for not looking for work. I recall reading how panhandlers make large sums of money. To lessen my guilt, I promise myself that I will donate to our food pantry, I cringe to consider what Jesus might be thinking of my thoughts and inaction. Jesus didn't ask me to determine how this man will spend the money or when he last looked for work. Jesus didn't invite me to pray the light would turn green. He didn't tell me to research how much money sign-holders make. Jesus simply said, 'Give to everyone who begs from you.' God alone provides my every possession, ability, and source of security. The Lord also gives me particular opportunities to serve God's beloved children. God has generously given, so I may generously share.
I am not saying that we all have to give money to every person we see. What I am saying is to put yourself in the place of those people on the street corner holding the signs. Think of what it would be like to be called those people. I see some of those people every week at our meal program. I don't judge them, I welcome them into a place where ALL are welcome and nobody is judged. Personally I know I am blessed to have a job and an income. I am someone who has always cared and done for others before I do for myself, something my parents taught my sister and I while we were growing up. I might suggest if you do not care to give money to people that perhaps you keep some fast food restaurant gift cards in your car or a bag that contains hand lotion, chapstick, kleenex, granola bars, a pair of socks, a bottle of water or any other food item that will not easily spoil. You might also consider putting a flyer of free meals that you know they could go to. Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’