Proverbs 28:27 Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
This morning, as I was up at 6, making a meal for the soup kitchen in Cleburne ( I adore the time change that helps me get up cheerful in the early hours) looking forward to going there, my mind drifted to some things I have heard people say about feeding the poor, giving to the needy, helping people in trouble, and so on. I thought about the sweet things people say and those who donate - in fact, my church had donated left over food from the auction we had just had for this meal. So much food that all I needed to do was add cheese and cream to the potatoes, and cook some more meat to add to the barbecue they had left over. Another friend had donated fried pies and lots and lots of cookies. I was pretty set except for the putting it together.
But I also remembered some things people have said that made me cringe. I remembered a time in my life when our family went through a money crash, and what it felt like to not have enough money.
I thought about the people who come to eat at the soup kitchen I work in at least once a month, and how I have come to really care about some of them. Which makes it all the harder to hear less than kind things. So I will jump right in here, and talk about it.
One thing I hear a lot is "beggars can't be choosers" when it come to the meal. I think that's a wrong attitude. I loved what the pastor of the soup kitchen church said to me the first time I worked there. He told me, "We ask them to sit down. We have table cloths on the table. We want them to feel like they are in a restaurant, that they are special, and so we serve them the meal." It sets the tone for everything.
I offered to come on the fifth Tuesday if they didn't have anyone, and the pastor told me to come on ahead. But when I did, there was already another lady there with food. She was not happy to see me. She kept telling me that the last Tuesday of the month was HER day.
But someone else who works at the church told me that the Tuesday before, no one had showed up with a meal, and I figured out right away what was wrong. Sometimes there are five Tuesdays in a month, and if the last Tuesday is her day, then the fourth Tuesday on those months would not have anyone.
But as we worked together, it was pretty clear she didn't have enough food for the 60 or so meals we usually serve. She told me she just went around to stores and asked them to donate to the kitchen, and then she made whatever was donated. If it wasn't enough, she tried to pull from the food pantry that was there. She felt like "beggars can't be choosers" she told me, so they just got what she got for free, and should be happy with it. If there wasn't enough, well...
After we served, I went in to the pastor, and told him that maybe I shouldn't come on this day, since they already had someone to make meals. He told me, "I knew she was coming, but bless her heart, we run out of food on the day she comes."
I tried to help her that day to understand about how much food she needed to bring. I don't know how it's gone since then for her.
Which brings us to the matter of what to serve. When we serve the hungry, should we just bring the cheapest food we can? What ever we can get for free? Of course, our own finance's will dictate how much we can spend. But what should our attitude be?
Well, let's look at what the Bible says:
Luke 14:12-14 "When you put on a luncheon or a banquet, don't invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you."
So if you are going to feed the poor, try and give them a banquet.
I remember another time, years ago, helping at a church clothes closet. As we arranged the clothes, I commented on how awful they looked, stained, ragged, ugly, cheap. The lady who was in charge got kind of mad at me, and quoted to me once again, "Beggars can't be choosers."
I think, if we are going to donate, let's donate good stuff. Repair it, try and get the stains out. Give as much dignity to people as you can.
Another time, I listened to someone fuss about helping at pregnancy centers. "I don't understand why they give these moms all this new stuff." She said. "Why isn't garage sale stuff good enough for someone in this situation?"
Which made me remember...
Once, many years ago, our family had a financial crash. We lost our house and our car. I had a baby, my third, and I thought he was way more beautiful than any other baby. But we were so broke, and I didn't have the money to buy him many things. I had two nice overalls for him to wear to church, and when you go Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night, plus working at the churches mother's day out program, that's not a lot of clothes. I changed out the shirt each time to try and make it look like he was wearing something different. I looked with great sinful envy at the other mothers who had lots of cute clothes for their babies, and I felt bad about not being about to give him much. One day when a nice man who didn't mean anything said to me, "I never see that baby wear anything but overalls," I went home and cried.
During this same time, another friend gave the clothes her daughter had outgrown to my preteen daughter. This family had a lot of money, and many of the clothes were designer brands. My daughter wore them happily - in the beginning. But this girl was soon quick to let all the other girls at school know that my daughter would have nothing to wear if it weren't for her hand-me-downs. That stung...that hurt. My daughter was embarrassed.
Attitude can be everything...
In a world where there are children with NOTHING to wear, these things were a very small matter. But I know the feeling of wanting nice, new things for your baby and your growing daughter. There isn't anything wrong with garage sale items, I shop thrift stores and garage sales all the time. But lets not begrudge a new mama who chose life either really nice garage sale things, or new, if we can. Her baby is special, too.
That same baby in the overalls grew into a teenager, and at the park once, he saw a man digging though the trash, picking out food. He was upset, and asked if he could make a sandwich for the man. I said yes, and he proceeded to make the biggest, fatest sandwich I had ever seen, much bigger than the one he had just eaten. He took it to the man digging in the trash, who quickly said he was just looking for food for his dog, but we saw him go off to a tree and eat it.
I have never been prouder of my son than I was that day.
So give, in what ever way God calls you to give, because God calls ALL of us to give to the poor. Give out of your abundance, not the stuff you are going to throw away, anyway. I have a sign on my wall that my sister gave me that says "I saw that - God."
He sees what we do. Let's honor him!
Luke 6:38 "Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full - pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back."