Walk the streets of any major city, and you'll have to decide at least half-a-dozen times what to do: keep walking past the outstretched hand, the plea for money, the weary eyes. Or stop and give a small amount. But it's not really the money that stops most of us from giving. Rather, it's the conflict of not knowing the right thing to do.

Most of us probably disregard the person or just mumble a muffled "no." But then, once in awhile, each step away from the encounter feels haunted, because we know we've ignored the pain and human suffering of our sister or brother. And, we feel regret. "Why couldn't I have been even a little bit generous?" Or sometimes we fear being suckered. Or we don't want to be enablers, contributing to another person's inability to make their own progress.

Some people have definite strategies—"I never give to panhandlers" or "I give to military veterans, but only if they don't smell like alcohol." Whatever. I have my own strategy. For example, last weekend I was in New York City with a friend, and as we waited at a crosswalk, a man asked us for money. My friend and I usually have the same response in these situations. So my friend said, "Come with us across the street and we'll get something to eat for you." He followed us into a diner, and we paid for what he wanted: a cup of coffee and a muffin. So, for me, buying someone food is a solution I can live with. It satisfies my desire to be giving, but I also know I'm not just fueling someone's addiction to drugs or alcohol.

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Testimony of Healing
April 25, 2005

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