The health benefits of running to work for 20 minutes through Central London are probably mixed at best. Whilst on the positive side I’m getting exercise, but I’m pretty sure that the fumes from the traffic and air-conditioning outlets are not working wonders for my lungs. Still, it is much much much nicer than being squished on the Central Line, and a pair of trainers a year works out a lot cheaper than taking the Tube twice a day.
Running through Central London, something that strikes me is the number of people sleeping rough and living on the streets. Numbers have definitely increased over recent years. Being a chicken, and someone who will happily avoid awkward situations, it’s all too easy to run past people who are asking for money. I feel challenged by this every day, and I feel even more challenged having just written about the money that I save each year by not taking the Tube. What exactly am I doing with that money…?
It’s very clear what God’s attitude is towards the poor, and the response He expects from those who do have something to give. God says in Deuteronomy 15:11, ‘There will always be poor people in the land’, and sadly, however many years after those words were said, we can see that they are still true. Straight after those words though, God commands us ‘to be open-handed towards your fellow Israelites who are poor and needy in your land’. Doing nothing isn’t an option: ‘Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses’ (Proverbs 28:27 (my italics)).
What should our response be then? If we see someone asking for food, should we always give them something? I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this, but one small thing that I try and do each week is to buy a copy of the Big Issue. The Big Issue’s motto/mission statement is ‘a hand up, not a hand out’, and when you read the story from a vendor at the end of each magazine you see the impact of that mission. For just 10p more than the price of a single journey on the Tube, the Big Issue helps me to do something practical and positive to help someone. It’s certainly not the only response I should be having to the homelessness I see every day, but it’s a start.
Image Credit: Ed Robertson