A man I work with in the transitional living center recently wrote a letter to me and Janet asking for $100. Our policy in environments where we volunteer is that is that we don’t give money directly to individuals, but we do give time and training to them. That’s the principle we follow.
So I told him, “I can’t give you the money. But I am a coach. I’d be happy to coach you on managing your money.” He agreed, so I told him, “Your first assignment is that for the next two weeks, you need to keep track of every penny you spend. Keep a piece of paper and write it down every time you spend something– the amount and what the money went for.”
He didn’t follow through on the assignment (he was probably spending $100 a month on cigarettes), but he hasn’t asked me for money since. If you give money in situations like this one, you create dependency. But if people really do want the coaching, that type of contribution can be really helpful for them. I’ve had some people take me up on the offer of coaching and follow through. When they are faithful, focused and responsive, they can make important progress.
Is this also how you handle the “man-on-the-street” requests as well? It may be harder/impossible to do coaching in those situations and sometimes (though rarely) the need is obvious too. I try not to be “duped” and still listen for the Holy Spirit too but I’m not always certain of either the outcome or the correctness of the direction I choose.
Obviously it would be different when it’s a one-time encounter. My wife and I carry lunch-size bags in our cars filled with non-perishable food and other helpful necessities for homeless people. Just today I gave one to a homeless man on a street corner. On occasion have bought a person a sandwich at Subway. We always need to be sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you affirmed.