Will Work for Bus Money

Hi friends. I hope you all had a relaxing or fun-filled weekend, whichever would have appealed to you more! I had no intention of writing tonight, but on the drive home from my Grandpa’s house, I had some inspiration. And not just inspiration, but real questions.

Mason and I were at a stoplight in the right lane around 8:30 pm, and there was a man standing on the corner. He seemed to be in his late thirties, had a backpack, and held up a cardboard sign that read “Homeless, please help. Need bus money. Will work.”. My first thought was “Oh, please God do not let Mason knock on the window” because that is the new thing with him these days. Then, I was quickly uncomfortable because even though the man wasn’t looking at me, he knew I was there.

I had six singles in my wallet, and I could feel them burning a hole in my purse. I nearly rolled the window down and waved the man over, but a few things stopped me. The main thing that kept me from giving money to the man is fear. In my head, I pictured what could potentially happen. I was afraid that if I rolled the window down, the man may somehow get into my car or steal my bag, or pull a gun on me or Mason. How sad is it that we live in a society where we don’t help our neighbors because of fear? Rather than having faith in humanity, we default to all of the horrible things that could happen, especially in light of all of the violence we hear about lately (which, for what it’s worth, I am not sure has actually gotten worse or if it’s just more publicized in the media).

So of course Mason knocks on the window and I hiss “Don’t knock on the truck windows, Mason”! He asks why. I say “Sometimes people want to be left alone,” and then I sigh and say, “actually, that man is looking for some help.”. Mason dropped the subject pretty quickly because the light turned green and we drove away, the sun setting behind us. It was getting dark, it would have been dangerous to help the man… right? Right?

I had similar dilemmas while working on the corner of Wisconsin Ave and Water St downtown. There were so many men and women looking for money every single day. There were very few days where someone did not stop me to ask for change for the bus or food or no reason at all. Some held signs and stayed in one place, and some literally followed you until you told them that sorry, I don’t have any cash, but God bless and have a great day. Anytime I discussed this with anyone, they usually had the response of, “They were probably going to use the money for drugs or booze anyway, and if they stand there every day they are going to hit you up all the time and tell other homeless people that you give money when asked”. This may be very true. But how would I know that? Wouldn’t the right thing to do be to help anyone if you are able? Wouldn’t you have faith that a blessing would come your way if you help others, regardless of what the stranger uses the money for? As far as people who stand out on the streets every day begging, and the dilemma of helping them once means helping them again, I have no answer for this. At what point is it foolish to hand out money to homeless people, or anyone asking for help?

I know that I can’t help everyone, and I am only one person, but what IS expected of me, as a Christian and honestly, as a decent human being (because to be honest, Christianity has nothing to do with it, on a basic level this is about helping those around us)? I have considered so many answers to my questions, none of which I feel particularly certain or strongly of, such as: always offer help if it’s a woman asking, if the person states that they will work for money, or if the individual is standing there with kid(s). I feel so terrible anytime I don’t offer money if there is change in my wallet. I think about it for the rest of the day and feel (for lack of a better word) so sad. It’s a constant battle between looking out for myself, and considering the following verse:

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

So, friends, what do YOU think? Please, please sound off in the comments! I welcome all opinions because I am very conflicted and am interested in hearing everyone’s views!


 don't just stand there


6 thoughts on “Will Work for Bus Money

  1. Rachel, I don’t have an answer, and I have found myself in the same situation with the same questions. (I love that you take the time to think and write so beautifully about something that has happened in your daily life, something that is ordinary–but troubling.) Sometimes, I have not given money and sometimes I have given money, worried that I did the wrong thing either way!!!! What to do? Ask the Lord for guidance at that moment and trust your instincts after you have prayed? The decision is complicated by our fears of others, as you say. And we need to be wise about potential dangers, but we also need to reach out to others, as the Lord leads…. You bring up a very tough but tender topic. God bless your heart for others.


  2. Thanks for your honesty, Rachel. I struggle with this too. Even more so now that I have a child watching me. I want to be a good example. I want her to be kind and love others above all else. But I must do that first.
    I also don’t think it’s our responsibility to worry about what someone will do with the money once we give it. If they say it’s for food or bus money then we should trust that. It’s our responsibility to give. When working downtown I did try to keep extra protein bars in my purse and would give those… Plus I never carry cash anyway. 🙂
    Just the other day I was stopped at a light next to a homeless man. I didn’t have any money or food. I avoided eye contact and tapped my fingers impatiently waiting for the light to change. Once I drove away I felt horrible. Why did I feel the need to ignore him? A smile is better than nothing, isn’t it? Instead of acknowledging his humanity, I turned my head.
    It may sound naïve but I think if we all acknowledged eachother’s humanity more, there would be less violence and less to question when helping others. 🙂


    • Mari, thanks for sharing! I definitely relate to feeling horrible when I don’t acknowledge someone in need, either to avoid the situation being awkward or to act as if I don’t see them. If we can all acknowledge each other’s humanity as you said, our children will be a generation to be reckoned with!


  3. I had the same type of thing happen. Sitting at a red light coming off the freeway. My window was cracked a bit already. I had a five dollar bill in my wallet. I decided if I just keep the window cracked, make eye contact and wave it out the small opening he couldn’t hurt me. Well when I reached into my wallet the money wasn’t there. I KNEW I had it. Why wasn’t it there? I think God was protecting me from something happening because the light turned green, I drove home, looked in my wallet and there it was the whole time.


    • Thanks for sharing, Rebecca. It must have been reassuring for you to know that even though in your heart you had wanted and were going to help, and even though God kept you from helping that day, you still had the mindset to help, and would have had the situation been safe or whatever the case may have been.


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