How to Be Both Smart and Sympathetic in Giving?


We have just arrived from our usual Saturday and Sunday marketing habit. My wife, son, and I bought goods and groceries in the local market. We deliberately inconvenient ourselves for an early morning walk. Besides, we get to buy what we need at a discounted price compared to what we get from the mall.

When I do groceries in the local market, I expect beggars who poke or pat people with their arms wide open. Sometimes, I wonder if they’re mute or not. They don’t speak! They just open their arms, look at my morning glory, poke and nag me until they can’t catch up on me because of my big footsteps. Sometimes, they beg like a boss. Poking me on the side and opening their arms wide open without speaking a word land on me as though they’re implying, “Alms. You know the drill. Double-time or else.”

I have a confession to make. Sometimes, I get annoyed with how they ask for alms, especially when they look at me with Sakuragi’s killer eye either because of dissatisfaction (maybe I gave something too little) or frustration (I didn’t give anything at all).

What do I want to share with you today? Aside from the first three paragraphs of rant, I would like to share with you three ways on how I think we should engage with our unfortunate fellow men and women.

1. Don’t give cash but gifts in kind.
As much as possible, I don’t give cash. I give food even if it’s the food that I’m just about to eat. If I give cash to a beggar, I feel I’m approving, validating, and cementing his crooked conviction that everyone is responsible for his breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Recently, I bought a tall can of assorted biscuits. I re-packed the biscuits in clean plastic bags. My wife asked me what that was for. I said that’s what I will give to beggars whom I will encounter on the street every time I go out.

2. Don’t just give gifts in kind. Speak with them.
Every person went through or is experiencing tough times in life. I can’t blame it all to the poor person. Perhaps, he was born from a family of beggars and that was what he grew up with.

Last Monday, my wife and I had breakfast in a fast-food chain. While waiting for my wife, I saw this young boy lying on the pavement. Before my wife and I went out, we decided to buy breakfast for him. Just when we were about to go out, the boy woke up. While we were heading to our car, the boy was heading to our direction.

We gave his bag of food and I chatted a little with him, maybe for 3 to 5 minutes. I asked him if he has a family, where he lives, and why he does not go home. When I asked if his parents scolded him that’s why he chose not to go home, he went silent. I didn’t get to know the root of the issue why he did not want to go home, but I asked him if he was willing to go home. He nodded so I gave him little money for his fare back home.

Confession: There were times when I just threw a cold look to beggars who knocked on the door of my car or who poked me on the arm. When the judgmental version of me hits me in the head, I auto-remind myself that the person has a story that I’ve never heard so I should not judge too soon.

Nonetheless, we need to be smart in giving. Don’t dole out just so we pass the social standards (“Someone’s looking. I got to give.”). Communicating is part of giving. We are all busy, but let’s give the less opportune person the time of day when we can. God is busy, too. Thank God He is God. He doesn’t get sick and tired of this world filled with whiners like me and you-know-who. He always makes time to speak with us. The problem is not His availability to speak, but our availability to listen. How can we not impart a fraction of the grace (material and time) we receive everyday?

Jaycee De Guzman

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