Thursday, December 25, 2008

Hand Outs

I have to reread that comment from the Director of the Long Beach Mission. Did he say the only people who complained were those who wanted a hand out, not a hand up? I also have to reread my post about the Winter Shelter. I guess I should not expect a city to provide shelter for homeless people. That would be like asking for a hand out, I suppose. Gee, I feel rotten; I accepted those hand outs. How did that happen?

David took me to the Village, the Village guy sent me to GR and said "they'll hook you up", GR sent me to the Greenleaf and later I was sent to a shelter in Los Angeles, all the while I was to fill out job applications. Getting a job, I was to get off the streets, I suppose. At that time I thought I could survive on low pay, by renting a room at a dive motel. I did not like being dependent, but I thought, since I had worked and paid taxes in Long Beach, I was not asking for something for nothing.

One of my most awesome experiences in life was at St. Luke's Church in Long Beach. Wish the details of the memory were still intact. I happened to be standing next to the church's Pastor. I said something to the man, not knowing he was a minister, and was embarrassed. An older (gee, he probably was not older than me, just looked it) homeless man looked me in the eye as he said: Thank You. The most incredible feeling came over my body. I felt love. The pastor and I talked about that. He understood what I meant. Some people might call it being filled with the Spirit or Holy Ghost. Or God. When the homeless or hungry thanked me, I thanked them for allowing me to serve them.

I did not think of those people as being there for a handout. I was not thinking I should be offering them a hand up. I felt blessed because I had enough money for my needs with a bit left over to help those less fortunate than myself. There had been years when the cost of a couple of 5 pound cans of corn (or whatever I donated for that meal) was way out of reach for me. I believed in the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. If I were hungry, I would appreciate someone offering me food.

It took me a good long time as a homeless person before I would set foot in St. Luke's to be feed. To accept a handout. I much preferred to be on the serving end of that line.

"Have you been saved?", "Do you know Jesus?", "You are homeless because you need Jesus", was all stuff I was being told by men who stayed at the Mission. And lots of other people too. Ha, if there were a God, that man would be in jail and I would still be working... Or he would be homeless, not me. He lies, cheats, steals. Uses people. Peddles drugs to minors. And the other one? Burns down a building, along with his lying, cheating, stealing, never missed a day of drinking; shot heroin in the bathroom with his nephew with our children in the apartment. Never homeless.

So how might one who professes to be preaching God's word sit in judgement on the homeless? Perhaps the majority of homeless became so through the sins of others against them. For those who believe, as I have heard in some sermons, that our role in life is chosen for us, before we are born on earth by that God, maybe we homeless were chosen for the role to test Christians. "It makes them feel good," many homeless told me, that they can help with spare change or food. Surely my own gratitude for having a job, food and roof over my head was borne of seeing all those in Long Beach who did not.

Postscript: I finally re-read the comment about hand outs. My website (gypsywoman) I asked for a "hand up, not a hand out". When I was still homed and working, I did not judge the people who asked me for "spare change" which I told them was "share change". If I had it I shared. I believed in doing unto others as I would have done unto me, you see. I did not think of those people as asking for a "hand out"; just people with misfortunes and thought "there but for the grace of God goes me". I did not reread this post today, 1/7/09, but it seems to me, I was made to feel so low during my homeless days, I forgot that asking for help is not the same as asking for hand outs.

One of the two most effective advertising words is: Free! People who have way decent incomes often stand in those lines to get something for nothing or a "hand out". I was indeed looking for a helping hand, but could live without the verbal abuse (you are a hopeless sinner, you are going to hell when you die, you are no good, you are asking for a hand out, blah, blah, blah).

"Kindness in giving creates love" I used to believe and "Generosity is never wasted".

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