I was driving in Holland, Michigan, the other day and spotted an unkempt individual begging for money.
It is not uncommon these days to see panhandlers along the road. The signs often explain that the beggar is homeless or jobless or a military vet, and sometimes there's an offer to work for food. Usually these individuals are at major intersections in larger cities, and the appearance of one in the rather upscale community of Holland surprised me.
Reaction to this phenomenon has been varied, but many communities are now outlawing the practice. There's no question about it, however: The appearance of people claiming to be homeless and begging for money and/or jobs makes us uncomfortable.
I'm using this rather long introduction to point out that it may not be so comfortable for the person doing the begging, either. I realize that some are involved in scams, and some are using the money for beer. But the truth of the matter is that begging is not fun. And that's what we must continually do at HFP.
I really dislike it.
Matt and I attack the problems of prisoners with vigor each day. Each request for help is important to us. Every prisoner is important. We love what we do!
The part of this job that we hate is begging.
Yet, in the month of May just ended, our fund-raising efforts fell $4,000 short of the money we needed to pay bills. The shortfall will not magically disappear. We must quickly come up with plans and ideas.
I wonder what kind of signs we could make regarding the plight of prisoners. Lonely? Feeling helpless? No family or friends remaining? Abused? Forgotten? Ailing without treatment? Dying alone? Guilty 'til proven innocent? Those signs would be no more popular than the ones we see along the road daily.
Matt and I aren't frivolously spending money on beer. While our cause may not be as exciting as raising funds for victims of earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and tsunamis, our work has strong biblical grounds. We are on a mission. This is a ministry!
And so we're begging again this month.
Every gift, no matter how small, enables us to continue on our path of compassion among the least of these.