Are there any poor among us?
Certainly, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” And, thankfully, one can hardly turn on the TV or read the newspaper without mention of some private group, church group, or a community club doing projects to help the poor and homeless. Yes, there are many poor among us, and we in America are known throughout the world as the most giving people anywhere – always have been and very likely always will be.
As we all know, there are poor everywhere. While on a mission in South Africa, we sadly observed hundreds and hundreds of the homeless. Some often gathered under the freeway overpass near our apartment in the huge, crime-ridden city of Johannesburg.
Toward evening, these souls would build small fires for warmth and share food and blankets, if any were available, but these items were always much too scarce.
We were happy to be able to often provide woolen type army blankets from our local church warehouse. We also took bags of oranges, and apples and day-old loaves of bread -- all this done when the weather was the coldest. The smiles from those people were our payment.
Were we ever frightened? Only rarely when our GPS was inoperative because of streets without names, and we were always grateful when we got back to our warm flat.
Now, juxtapose this situation with that here in Southeast Idaho. What can we do with the homeless we see on street corners here, especially at this time of year. Certainly, we never know which beggars are legitimate, and sometimes feelings of guilt afflict us as we try to decide which ones we will give to since we can’t give to all.
So, what’s the solution? It’s been suggested not to give cash that can be used for drugs and alcohol but rather to give food instead.
Here’s our own personal M.O (modus operandi) -- and possible suggestions:
#1 Buy boxes (10 to a box) of Sunbelt Chocolate chip granola bars and/or similar kinds of nutritious power bars and have them available to hand out our car door window.
#2 Have a small bag filled with an apple, orange, popcorn, etc. handy to give out.
#3 Buy gift cards from McDonald’s
As we exit the parking lot and observe our “target audience,” complete with signs, and we hand out our little gifts, we see the previously sad faces light up, and we usually hear an appreciative, “God bless you.”
You may say, “This isn’t much,” and you are right! But if just “this much” puts smiles on their faces and ours, making these, often destitute people—and us -- feel a little better about life, then it’s okay. And we will be able to answer in the affirmative the question posed in the old hymn: “Have I done any good in the world today?” with a big “Yes!”
At least it’s a beginning!
Dean and Nancy Hoch are local Public Affairs representatives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. email@example.com.