A Hero's Example: Giving to the Homeless
By Michael Fishman on April 04, 2012
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For nearly thirty years, Father Maurice Chase would hand out dollar bills to people on Los Angeles’ skid row. “Father Dollar”, as Chase was called, stood on the sidewalk among the poorest of the city’s poor. He didn’t judge anyone; he simply gave dollar bills to everyone who stood in line. Father Chase didn’t care if the people used the money to buy food or drink or drugs, he only wanted those people to know they weren’t invisible and that they were loved.
Image: David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News via ZUMA Press.
Father Chase would solicit money from wealthy benefactors in the city, celebrities mostly, and he would generally give out $2,000 in dollar bills on Sundays and as much as $5,000 in both dollar bills and higher denominations on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Women with children and the disabled received money first and then everyone else, no questions asked. It’s not known exactly how much money he gave away during the course of his work.
“I met Mother Teresa in Mexico City once, and she told me to touch the poor. Do you hear that? Touch the poor.”
-–Father Maurice Chase
Father Chase died at his home in Los Angeles last November.
All of us have our personal beliefs in God and I would never question anyone else’s beliefs, or non-beliefs, but when I think about the subject, I wonder if what we do on weekend mornings or what we pray for really matters? What we do on the weekend is good, and yes, prayer is, I think, important. But what I wonder is, if we really want to effect change in the world, do we need to move beyond the passive pursuits like weekly gatherings and silent prayer and start actually acting in the ways we believe God would act?
In other words, instead of praying for changes, we pray for the strength and courage needed to make those changes and then go out and make the changes ourselves. Rather than sitting around and waiting for the miracles we pray for to occur, we go out and make the miracles happen. We don’t let ourselves get hung up on where to start or the right way to go about it because we accept that there is no right or wrong way to go about it and no one place to start the work. We let ourselves believe that simply starting the work will be enough.
I know a lot of people argue against the idea of giving a dollar to the people we see at intersections and highway off-ramps holding up homeless signs but I disagree with that. I don’t like the thought that the person asking me for a dollar might be scamming me, but that’s beyond my control and their lies aren’t my issue to deal with.
Image: liberalmind1012 via Flickr
However, I can’t assume that everyone out there holding a sign is lying and running a scam. Some of those people really need the money which is the key issue: What does the person need the money for?
People who disagree with me ask me what I think about the possibility that the person asking for the dollar turns around and spends the money on drugs or alcohol. My answer? I don’t care.
Most of those people – if not all of them – aren’t going to turn their lives around with the couple of dollars they make standing outside holding a sign all day. Their lives aren’t going to change if they suddenly get a hot meal in their stomach or a place to spend the night. I’m just fortunate and thankful that I don’t share their reality and if I can give them something that might help take the pain away or help them make it through the night then I’m happy to do it.
I’m really interested in hearing your thoughts.
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