I Have Nothing to Give

“Feed the hungry, help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be bright as noon”- Isaiah 58:10


Growing up in a small, fairly wealthy community, I just did not see people in need on the street corners.  I was not familiar with poverty on a personal level.  I always heard about people who could not afford to eat, but was never faced with having to truly help those in need, who were hungry.   

I always heard, “help the poor” and “take care of those less fortunate than you”, but I never had to look at a person in rags on the street corner begging for food on a day to day basis.  Sure, I would go on mission projects and work for those less fortunate than myself, but I would come completely prepared to see people that had no roof over their head, hardly enough food to feed their family.  I would leave a week later, and not think about it again. 

Upon moving to the Chicagoland area and working downtown, I started to see the men curled up in their cardboard boxes in the dead of winter as I got off the train each day.  The people on the street corners begging for help.  I always just walked by or stated, “I have nothing to give.”  I felt incredibility guilty and sad that I could not do anything, but who has cash on them these days?  Then, I would find myself judging them.  What did they do to get into this situation? If I gave them my hard earned money, would they actually spend it on food? 

Over the years, I got married and had 2 kids. God provided for our family and we are blessed.  I stopped working downtown, but as I drive my kids around town I still see the man on the street corner with a cardboard sign asking for help, or a person walking down the main street in front of my neighborhood with all their worldly belongings on them.  My kids began to ask questions such as; “Mom, why do they ask for help?” and “Why don’t they have anything?”  I found myself trying to answer their questions, but as I did the feeling kept returning that I should be doing something to help these people.  I am not put here to judge them.  I do not need to decide how they are going to spend the money. God calls us in so many passages in the Bible to help the poor.  What was I doing?  What example am I setting for my kids by just driving or walking by without looking at the woman, dressed in rags, pushing her shopping cart with all her belongings?  Still, I had the excuse, I don’t carry cash.  I have nothing to give. 

Then I was called by my church to write my story.  What was God laying on my heart to do?  I knew God had been building this inside me for years.  It was time to take action.  I headed to Jewel and purchased a lot of gift cards.  I put some in our cars and some in my purse.  That night I talked with our kids about how we are called to help those in need.  I explained we do not need to worry about how they use the money we give them, that we leave that up to God.  Our job right now was to open our eyes and not to ignore.  Our family is now on the hunt to spot those we can help.  When we run out of gift cards, I will head to the store to buy more. 

This is so simple that I should have done it years ago, but I did not.  I am sorry for passing by so many that I could have reached out to.  I am not sure how this will turn out.  Our family is at the beginning of this journey together.  But, I hope God uses this to open our eyes to the needs of others and to realize it is our job to help even if it makes us uncomfortable. 

– Lisa 

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