Can You Spare 5 Dollars?

Can You Spare 5 Dollars? June 29, 2015

We’veheard that kind of question many times.  How do we answer?  What haveyou done?

Walkby cynically – “Anyone can get a jobat McDonald’s.”  This turns out not to be true.  Also, it’s oftenhard for the poor to make it from where they spend the night to where theywork.  It might take 2-4 hours each way, fares they have troubleaffording, and lots of walking.

Walkby helplessly – We don’t know what tothink and we’re in a hurry.  If we can avoid eye contact, we can escapeand argue with our conscience until we can forget about this.

Giveuncomfortably – We don’t feel up toargument and delay, so we hand over money and move on.  

Giveconfidently – We think it’s better torisk being generous and wrong than to be hardhearted.  We give and moveon.   

Arguewith him – We want to know if we’rebeing conned.  We try to find holes in his story.  If he’s making itup, that will help him con someone better next time.  If she’s beinghonest, we frustrate her and still won’t know if the story is true; most peoplehave a good story.  Back to one of the above choices.


Whenwe do any of the above, we risk enabling self-destructive behavior or failingto give encouragement and help to someone made in the image of God.  Weoften have sympathy for the other’s plight but sometimes our motivation comesfrom smug overconfidence or a horror of having our time used up trying to sortout an awkward situation.  We usually don’t feel wise.  We feelinadequate and wrong.


Abetter approach – Engage theperson.  If the story is, “I’m hungry”, offer to share dinner at a restaurant. If he accepts it can lead to a good conversation.  If not, you may hear,“no, no, no, I just want the money.” or “Can you bring it back to me?” (andsell it to another homeless guy).  You can’t meet every need and you don’thave to.  Real engagement ranges from pointing someone in the direction ofhelp through outreaches we support to a longer interaction to figure out thereal need, which is usually more relational than financial. This is theapproach we want in our Alliance Ministry.