Many years ago, I noticed a man living on the streets near my office. I never saw him panhandling, although I assume he probably did. Each time I saw him, he was sitting alone in the doorway of an old building as if far away in thought. I couldn’t help but wonder, “How did he end up in that doorway?”
It was the Thanksgiving season and in anticipation of family guests, my eldest son and I were cleaning up our rooms when I came across a pair of shoes I had seldom worn. For some reason, I thought about the man in the doorway. In a bit of spontaneous goodwill, I quickly collected a bag of seldom worn clothes and items and enticed my then 10- year-old son to join me to see if the man in the doorway happened to be there. He was.
He seemed much younger than I had expected. I shuddered as I thought, “Could it ever be possible one of my kids would end up in a doorway like this?” We tried to engage him in conversation with the hope of possibly reconnecting him with family, but he focused in on the bag in my hand.
“That for me?” he finally asked, cutting my attempted conversation off without looking in my eyes. When I acknowledged that it was, he said a curt “thank you,” grabbed the bag, and quickly walked down the street and out of sight around the corner.
Over the years, I’ve helped fill the cups of various men and women holding “please help” signs at busy street corners. No doubt you have as well. Doing so doesn’t hurt us much and we usually feel pretty good about ourselves for doing so. But I’ve noticed the people holding those signs are usually there the next day and then again the day after that and the day after that.
They are even there when our government is spending over a trillion dollars a year on various welfare programs. A trillion dollar is almost impossible to comprehend. It is one million one millions. To try and put that amount of money in perspective, of 195 recognized countries in our world, we spend more on trying to fix poverty in our country then the entire GDP of 180 other countries. And people are still living in doorways.
In Matthew 26:11, Jesus says, “You will always have the poor among you…” It wasn’t long after saying these words that Jesus would give himself up to die on the cross for you and me. So while there is much going on besides this one statement, this truth is very obvious even today; we will always have the poor among us. And while I realize the problems are complex, one would think a trillion dollars would solve just about any problem, especially where money is the problem. But, then I’m reminded, “You will always have the poor among you.”
Thanksgiving reminds us to be mindful and grateful for our many blessings, even in times of great difficulty. It is also a season of joyful generosity where we actively remember another of Jesus’ sayings: “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) Now that’s worth a trillion dollars and a whole lot more.
Ed Thompson is president of LOGOI Ministries and a frequent contributor to this newspaper. Follow his blog at <edthompsonlive. wordpress.com>.