Do You Give Money to a Beggar?

Last week while walking from the grocery store to my car, a 30-ish white woman approached me and asked if I had a few dollars. Before I could answer she gave me this pleading look and said, "I'm so hungry."

I gave her the six dollars that was in my pocket and got into my car. She murmured, "God bless you" and got into her car. It was a not-so-old Volkswagon Jetta. I didn't feel good about giving her money. Common sense tells me she won't be spending it to feed her body, but to feed her addiction. Having close family and friends with addiction struggles I know that giving an addict money isn't helping - only enabling.

But what do you do?

I didn't have time to discuss her issues, offer to take her to McDonalds, or quiz her about where she'd spend the money. Clearly she was someone in need... but could I really provide what she needed.

Refusing her request was impossible for me. I couldn't turn my back on that pathetic face, but I know I didn't help her. It wasn't in me to lecture her. There are some who would say what I did was more cruel than turning my back. I remember talking with an old Franciscan priest years ago about beggars. He quoted the scriptures, "When I was hungry you gave me to eat" and "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers ..." He explained that the Franciscan rule demands that you respond to someone who begs.

Did Christ tell us how to identify and respond to this complexity?

What is the loving thing to do?

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