Give Till It Hurts? Ouch!
Every time the bus stopped for meals, I noticed a young man who stayed in the bus without eating. After a few stops I asked him and found out that he had no money for food. We were traveling on a bus from California to New York (one of several while I was a college student). I was just eighteen years old, and having seen lots of suffering all around me while growing up in the Bronx, I had to help.
So, for the entire three days, I bought food for someone I had never known before. My own funds were limited since my only income was the part-time job I had while attending college. With that I could not even pay my fees for college.
After the three-day journey, I arrived at the bus station on 42nd street in Manhattan. That is when I realized that in my generosity I had spent every penny in my posession. I checked every pocket and every corner of each of my bags without any hope. With no money for the subway ride home to the Bronx, I simply walked around wondering what to do next.
It was just 75cents (3/4 of a dollar) that I needed, and I began thinking of my options. I also did not have enough money for a phone call home. Walking home was out of the question since it was just too far. The only other option I could think of was to stand on the street corner and ask strangers for some change. That option seemed a bit too much like begging, so put that option as the last resort. Then I remembered the few times in the past when I found change lying around on the ground — but nothing there. Some say “give till it hurts.” But this was too painful.
Then everything changed. I began complaining to God for getting me into this mess. After all, I was simply helping a needy person in his hunger. Maybe my generosity went too far, but my intentions were clear. I could have put aside just a few coins for my trip home, but I never thought of it. I was only thinking of the immediate need and responding to it. But God could have helped me — I thought he should have.
That’s when I bumped into a young man I worked with during the summer while in High School. After the greeting and the common chit chat, I told him my predicament. He immediately reached into his pocket and gave me money for the fare. Never in my life had 75cents felt so valuable than at that time. All the way home I wrestled with the question: “Why did I end up in this predicament while trying to help someone in need?”
Job struggled with a similar situation when he said “Did I not weep for him whose day was hard? Was not my soul grieved for the needy? But when I hoped for good, evil came, and when I waited for the light, darkness came (Job 30:25-26 ESV).
But Proverbs says “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed (Proverbs 19:17 ESV). Knowing these texts was a greater problem for me.
I still don’t have a clear resolution of this dilema, but when people ask for help, I don’t think twice.
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