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.