Disclaimer: The following blog is a tired rambling of a set of thoughts I had yesterday while walking to work. I fully understand that not all homeless people can be classified as I have below.
I was walking to work yesterday and came across a homeless man. This isn't uncommon in San Jose but today it made me think more than I normally do about their situation and what they right thing to do was. The man was nice and greeted me with a warm hello as I walked by and then asked for some change for a bite to eat. I was torn - should I show unbiased compassion and give him a few bucks? or would that simply be naive or enabling him to continue his begging for surely he would have used my few bucks to buy booze or score drugs....Or was he simply in a rut and needed someone to show him a better side of the world? what would I want done if I were in that situation?
Then I got to thinking, what do we teach our children about these people? What am I suppose to say to that baby in my belly about this man? To we teach them to show compassion and treat them as you would want to be treated? Or do we teach them to look away and not enable someone that should be able to fend for himself? I know not all homeless people are there because they're alcoholics or drug addicts. Some are simply way down on their luck and need a hand up to get back onto a better track. But often times the are dangerous people driven to crime to support themselves (and whatever habit they may have). By teaching our children to be compassionate are we putting them in harms way when perchance they interact with these people?
My mom is a very compassionate individual (dad too for that matter) and I know in that situation she would have bought the man breakfast or a sandwich to help ease his hunger. This was crystalized in my mind one day in LA when we were getting breakfast at McDonalds and were approached (in the car!) by a disheviled, dirty, and obviously hungry woman asking for change. Rather than giving her change, my mom bought extra food to give to her. I like to think that I'd always do the same but I find myself questioning it every time.
I walked away from the man not feeding him or giving him money and felt terrible about it the whole way to the office and still do. There's a bible verse that just kept running thru my head: "for that which you do to the lowliest, you do unto me..." and I'd failed. I'd walked right on by, ignoring his pleas for some help, too busy or concerned for my safety to help him (i was on a main street in a very public place - my safety was not at risk).
I'm not sure where I'm going with this other than to try to figure out what to teach my child about this situation and how to handle it - heck, how to handle any situation that world may throw at him or her. It amazes me every day that we (Me, DH, and our siblings) turned out the way we did and I hope that I do as good a job parenting my children as our parents did us!