The first time I really remember people asking me for money was on my second trip overseas. It was 1994 and we were in Calcutta, India, one of the world’s poorest cities. Everywhere we went people were begging…the children in front of our hotel (they would do cartwheels and pop up holding out their hands for $), people on virtually every street corner and in front of shops. I won’t forget the man on the sidewalk leaning back in a makeshift seat with a tin cup around his neck. He hand no arms and no legs. He was in desperate need.
Since then, I’ve been approached in virtually every country I’ve visited…and in my own. People around the world are poor. What can be done to help them?
Relevant Magazine just posted a great article on the problem. It’s found here.
I don’t think the proper response is to give money every time someone asks…have you seen Slumdog Millionaire? Not all of that money will get to the people in need. Even if it does, it’ll help create dependency and can in fact keep people from finding the right help.
I wish I knew exactly how Jesus would’ve responded to that man I saw in Calcutta…or the children I see in Ecuador…or the family by the side of the road in Papua New Guinea. All beautiful places with great churches, leaders and futures…but all places with people in need. If Jesus helped one by handing out money, then he would be mobbed everywhere He went. He was mobbed, but that’s not why.
I like what my friends Joe and Mishael do. When they’re overseas, they always carry bags of fruit with them in their vehicles…they hand them out to all who ask until the bag is empty. I like what my brother-in-law does when he goes to downtown Chicago…he likes to bring McDonald’s gift certificates knowing the money he’s giving will be spent on food and not something else. I traveled with Chris who would regularly take his leftovers and give them to people in front of the restaurant asking for food. My wife has handed out breakfast bars to the vet on the corner when we exit the highway by our home. I’ve had fun playing with kids and then taking them for an ice cream cone or “Magnum” bar (they’re really good) in plenty of countries overseas.
These things help…but just for a moment. While that’s what some people need in that moment, there’s got to be a bigger/better response.
I love being a part of Convoy of Hope. In all honestly, we ask that people don’t give money to those who ask from the side of the road in foreign countries (or our own). However, we work with churches to help find long-term solutions. Convoy of Hope has helped start a cafe in Eurasia, a bakery in Central America and other micro-enterprises in places where people are in need. We provide seeds to families so they can grow food and even sell some to help make ends meet. We help people build water filters…that they can build inexpensively with items from their own communities. Our interns are working with schools to help the children plant gardens and then use seeds from those gardens to give to others so the food can spread. I could go on…
I don’t have many photos of people who ask for money. It doesn’t seem right to take them. However, I won’t forget those kids on the street in Calcutta. They saw Allen, another friend and I get off the riksha and came over and asked us to take their “pic! pic! pic!” They wanted their photo taken. We took their photo. They then looked at each other and each went for a different water bottle. They stole water bottles from our hands and ran across the street laughing. I suppose if it made them smile, I was fine with losing that water bottle. A fun moment…
God give you people wisdom about what to do to best help those in need!
What do you do?