"The noblest charity"

Charity more than begins at home. It is a deep sense of love that views no one as being outside the family.

Walk through any major city and you see the poor and destitute. Federal and municipal governments seek ways to help those in need. But often, it's too easy to ignore such sights and hurry on with busy activities. Is it an uncaring blindness that causes us to disregard the plight of the poor, or is it our doubts as to how to respond on an individual basis? The overall lack of kindly response compounds the problem. Beggars are often either verbally or physically abused or suffer the indignity of being completely ignored. It is as though they were invisible. Thus, in addition to their financial destitution they suffer deeper forms of poverty—emotional emptiness and even a poverty of the soul.

I recently realized just how difficult it can be to respond to the poor and also how innate is everyone's desire for respect. I was standing on a street corner in one of the world's largest cities when a stranger approached me and asked for money. I remembered friends' admonitions when I started working in the city, to watch my pocketbook at all times and never give money to strangers. With these admonitions still ringing in my ears, I turned and looked at him and said, "I'm sorry, I just can't." Again, I repeated, "I'm so very sorry." He looked at me with such kindness and said, "I understand, and please don't apologize. You are the first person who has not verbally abused me." Then he reached out and gently touched me and said, "Bless you" and disappeared into the crowd.

Free acres
August 15, 1988

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