Saturday, October 8, 2011

Single Scope Charity

This morning I went with a group of seminarians to Louisville to join a local pro-life group in praying outside the abortion clinic. But don't worry, this post isn't about the abortion debate. That's only a backdrop. Anyways, we were there on the sidewalk across the street from the clinic praying a Rosary. Most of the approximately 40 people were kneeling on the sidewalk but I happened to be standing up against the building. I had my eyes closed so I wouldn't be distracted by things happening across the street so I was surprised when someone tapped me on the shoulder.

I opened them and looked to my left. A man quickly said 'good morning' and introduced himself as Robert. By his appearance Robert was clearly homeless but with the exception of speaking extraordinarily quickly seemed fairly normal. He asked me for some change so he could get a cup of coffee and maybe a sandwich. I reached in my pocket but immediately remembered that I had nothing in my pocket but some ink pens. (I don't carry my debit card or cash most days because there's no reason to here at the seminary so in my haste this morning I only pocketed my usual pens and rosary).

I turned my pocket inside out to show that I really had nothing. His face fell and he began to speak glumly and although I couldn't catch every word I certainly got the point of what he was upset about: "So these people can be all pious praying here on the sidewalk but can't spare change for someone hungry right next to them?"

I asked the people around me if they had any money and all said no. I don't know if they really didn't have any, like me, or were just afraid to interact with this guy and said 'no'. It's not my place to say but the look on their faces when I asked was certainly of apprehension and nervousness. Robert quickly realized he wasn't getting any help and walked off through the prayers reiterating his earlier comments...and I couldn't help but agree.

Yes, if abortion is really the evil we believe it is then praying in front of a clinic is charitable but that doesn't excuse us of responsibility for other people in need. (Even if we're not sure how our charity will be used, it's better to be too charitable than not charitable enough.)

St. Elizabeth of Hungary, Patron Saint of the homeless, pray for him.


  1. And how much was spent to get there, to protest something a majority of Americans are okay with?

  2. a) irrelevant
    b) 180mi round trip in a Honda Civic: ~$12
    c) This post was stated to not be about the issue of abortion itself.
    d) The majority opinion does not make it morally correct.

  3. I wouldn't agree with Anonymous' statement that the majority are ok with this issue, but as Kelly said, irrelevant.

    In Madison, something like is a fairly common thing. State Street is a regular hangout for those who are homeless or inappropriately housed. There are always people asking for money, but usually nothing else. Acting on this kind of charity can be difficult, because, as with my state street example, there is a very large chance that your charity will be misused to purchase non-essential items.

    If it was certain that this man was indeed going to use the money to get food, then it's really unfortunate that no one helped him out. but the hesitation and anxiety displayed can be understood

  4. Yeah, I wasn't necessarily begrudging those guys for their reaction but rather commenting on a broad social issue.

  5. Kel e.,
    Please consider
    1) that like yourself most people do not carry money with them as they are going to Mass not shopping.
    2) That you asked for money; not to take the man somewhere to eat, which may have produced a better response.
    3) That there are people praying there daily, some of whom you where surrounded by who actually know the homeless who approach you.

    To Anon,
    1) We wern't protesting, we were praying for forgiveness. For ourselves as well.

    2) At one point a majority of all Germany considered Jews and Blacks not to be people. That majority didn't make it correct.

  6. Bob,
    True on all counts. I perhaps should have said it more clearly in the original post. My purpose in writing and agreeing with Robert was more to point out a broad kind of hesitancy and less to criticize this specific circumstance. It just happened that this struck me as particularly illustrative.


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