Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Turn to Systemic Change

Luke 6:30 has Jesus telling us to give to anyone who asks of us. I try to take this a little seriously, although some people come to me with unreasonable requests.

There are some requests I can neither take seriously nor grant.

Living in Chicago, with its high number of unemployed and homeless people, this sometimes leads to moral dilemmas: I don't want to tell a guy to screw off, but if he waves me over from across the street and asks me to buy him a sandwich, why shouldn't I? (I did buy him a sandwich, by the way, because I was feeling nice.)

In the time it took me to get from the Orange El at Clark and Lake to the Blue subway, I dealt with both a grateful homeless man and a complete jerk. I was going home with some leftovers culled from friends around the table at a Mexican joint, including a burrito I really, really wanted.


The first guy who asked me for food got a taco I didn't really want, but he was thrilled to receive. Wonderful: he got food, I felt good, all was well.

The second guy asked me if he could have the whole thing. I told him no. He pursued me, and I offered him another of the tacos. He demanded the burrito. I said no. Then my companion told me to just give him the whole thing. I'm still a little sore about that.

Today's event makes me downright mad. I was approached by a man telling me, as beggars often do, that he doesn't mean me no harm. I suppose they think I am a small, frightened thing which would be terrified of black people.

I guess they met him first.

He also told me he hadn't worked since 2002. Why I didn't ask what he's been doing for the last nine years is beyond me, but again, I wanted to be nice, do what Jesus did, that sort of thing.

So I offer to buy him a slice of pizza. The shop's out of pizza, so I order a hamburger, but he doesn't want a hamburger. I just look at him. He starts talking about the price, saying that if what he wants is too much, than forget it. I don't say a word. I'm dumbstruck.

I once told a guy at one of my role-playing games that we can't project our comfort on the homeless, that giving them money rewards them for begging. I know they aren't choosing to poop in alleyways just so they don't have to work, no one would.

On the other hand, I'm done with this crap. From here on out, I'm only going to worry about systemic change, because I'm tired of being punished for trying to help someone out, especially when I see that person, like earlier today, immediately go smoke a cigarette after begging from me. I don't have money for cigarettes, so that's not going to work. I want to help people, but today's beggar seemed like he just didn't feel like working.

Jesus could produce magic bread and fish. I'm going to help food pantries.

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