Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Panhandlers Vs. Pentecostals: It's On! (JWH)

Strolling around downtown Nashville, you will doubtless encounter one of many our homeless "neighbors" or "distant relatives" of the genus homo sapiens. These past five days in Nashville, I have encountered or stumbled upon (inadvertently) at least two to three of these uniquely situated individuals a day. This experience is somewhat new to me, due to the fact that I make my residence in Detroit, where to the best of my knowledge, there are no homeless people. We don't have homeless people; our biggest problem is peopleless homes (I think). In any case, there are indeed homeless people in Nashville, and you will likely encounter a few during your stay here.
Here is a particularly striking example of the panhandling flavor as recounted by my compatriot "Rumplestiltskin": sweet! I ran into the homeless firsthand, and boy was it great! She cut me off from my group as we were scurrying from the Renaissance hotel to the Marriot  and kept me company nearly the whole trip, displaying the most wonderful version of southern hospitality mine eyes ha' e'er seen! It was 6.5 minutes before she asked me for money! I only had to deny her twice before she gave up. I felt bad, and almost wanted to give her money, but I felt compelled to obey the laws of the land(Do NOT give money to the vagrants), so I decided to deny her. One of the inspirational things that this "vagrant" told me was, "I don't know what god's purpose for me here yet is, but I know he has a plan for me, just like he has a plan for YOU". She also told me that she knew I wasn't a local because I actually talked to her and was nice. She had on some very nice clothes but only one hairclip for all of her hair. She shook my hand and smiled often. She seemed quite normal compared to all of the other homeless people I've encountered/stumbled upon in my storied history...God bless America...Bybel Kwizzing Rox!!!!!
Thanks for that enlightening anecdote, "Rumplestiltskin."
The Master (i.e. Jesus Christ) addresses this subject in Matthew 25, where he instructs to give to the needy, naked, and sick in exchange for eternal life. This is clear enough; as Christians, we are commanded to give to the needy and homeless. But there are complications, often cited by individuals (myself among them) who disguise their selfishness with excuses about supporting drug and alcohol habits. Let the government take care of these individuals slash families, we say. But this presents further complications: how can we, as God-fearing religious conservatives, condone big government social welfare programs? There are private institutions founded specifically to support the homeless.
Ok, good. That problem is resolved. We don't have to worry about homeless people or big-government. But do we? There is such a thing as the free-rider problem: if enough people take this stance of indifference, no homeless will be helped. It really is up to us.
How can we help this week? I recommend signing up for Project 22:39 at I also recommend buying an issue of The Contributor ( At first I thought this homeless newspaper business was a scam, but after buying and perusing an issue, I now think this might be a legit deal. At least I got to read some interesting articles about homeless and former homeless individuals, like Papa Smurf and Mother Teresa (No joke--check it out for yourself). Also, when I bought my copy, the evidently homeless vendor said, "God bless you." From my reading of Matthew 25, I think He will.

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