Tonight I struggled with a very difficult decision. The decision has already been made, but I really would love to everyone’s thoughts on this, especially since the choice I made didn’t feel like the right one.
About three months ago, a couple came in to church off the street needing money. They claimed to have lost their cheap apartment to a fire and were now living off disability and cheap motels. Their money ran out before the month did, so they came by looking for something to eat and a place to stay. I took them to the grocery store and helped them shop for essentials and then paid in advance for their motel stay until they got their next disability check.
Tonight, they were back. Carrying nothing but pneumonia and a grocery bag of junk food, they told me about how their money had again run dry because of a hospital visit and they were now sleeping on benches outside the grocery store. They’ve been going from motel to motel, but most of the motels in the area are now turning them away (though I’m not sure why). They needed a meal and a place to stay until they got their check in mid-May. Their story sounded legitimate sometimes and other times suspicious.
And so the dilemma in my mind began. What would Jesus really decide, sitting here in front of these two? The answer seemed so obvious, cook them a hearty meal, give them what they need, let them stay in your house, help them find housing. But what happens when they come back in two months? Should I give again? I wanted to see them working towards getting out of poverty, but, by their own admission, most of their days are spent loitering around town.
I don’t have any problem inviting strangers to stay in my home. I’ve been so blessed; to not give back would be so selfish. But what happens if they don’t get a place tomorrow? I can’t just put them out on the street. When would they go? Do I leave my wife home alone with them? Do I leave them alone in my house? More importantly, when will the cycle end? Am I just fostering the victim mentality?
I really didn’t have an answer. I told them to stop by during the day so we could go looking for apartments. I gave them something to eat, forty dollars in gift cards to the grocery store, then dropped them off at the store and went home. She cried some and they both thanked me for my kindness. I was profoundly affected by this choice; I can’t stop thinking about what I did, what I didn’t, and whether or not I should have done things differently.