You could have heard a pin drop in the Goose Family living room when Mother Goose announced to her dear husband that her new friend was a homeless man. In fact, not only did I hear pins dropping, but jaws dropping as well.
When he had recovered from shock, Husband Goose asked in a fairly steady voice, “Do you think it was a good idea to invite a homeless stranger into our house?”
Mother Goose smiled and spoke quietly, “I knew that he was not dangerous.”
“You know, the village police would advise against that sort of hospitality.”
“Yes, I’m sure they would, but I just knew it would be safe.”
And indeed Mother Goose does NOT invite every stranger into her home. It is VERY risky, potentially disastrous AND dangerous to just open the doors and allow every beggar and homeless wanderer into the security of our homes. There are safe places for people to spend their nights and get good meals if they are in need.
I am usually a quite cautious goose, but for this one time, I was acting out of an internal conviction and heart-felt compassion for this one particular man who I immediately recognized as a Christ follower, a brother in the Lord.
Nonetheless we have a new policy in our home: there will be no homeless people allowed into the house. Period. And that includes Lawrence Little. And, of course, I respect that and will support the policy.
I called Pastor Michael Wright of The Liberty Worship Center on Washington Street in Oak Park the very next day. He was as kind and helpful as Lawrence had told me he’d be. He invited us to his church and offered to bring us a gift of a nice study Bible in the meantime. I thanked him graciously, of course, and then asked him about Lawrence, explaining our concern for him as well as the best way to proceed in this new relationship. I had some suspicions that some of the problems Lawrence had alluded to over our lunch were of a very serious nature, and probably beyond my capability to fix.
“First of all,” the pastor began, “Lawrence is harmless. I’ve known him for more than six years and he is completely harmless. However, he has struggled in the past with addiction. He’s been coming to our church for a long time, and is known and loved in our congregation. However, Lawrence has approached every single one of us often for money and promises of work. He needs to realize that people can only help him to a certain degree, and then he must allow God to do the rest of the helping. We are not God, and we cannot be God.”
“Pastor,” I said, “I have given Lawrence money and he has come back to our home for more help, for more money. I do not have any work for him to do, and I have exhausted my resources for him. On the other hand, I feel bad for him and his circumstance.”
“Mother Goose, you are a very kind and loving person. I can easily tell that you are a giving person who has a large heart. But please do not give Lawrence anymore money. This situation is very similar to putting out food for a stray cat who will continue to return to your doorstep as long as you put out the food. And do not feel bad about saying ‘no’ — do not feel guilty for turning down his request. Allow God to work now. And the next time you see Lawrence, please tell him that we’ve missed him at church, and that if you are going to be visiting, he’d better be there too!”
Pastor Michael laughed a bit at that, and we bid each other a cordial goodbye.
Mother Goose hung up the phone with a real sense of peace. I felt that between the new family policy of no homeless people in the house and the Godly and wise counsel of the pastor, I could now establish some boundaries with this needy friend. I knew that he would return to our doorstep. and I felt equipped to deal with the situation in a firm, but loving fashion.
Homelessness in our country is at an all time record high. The shelters are filled to overflowing in Chicago and its suburbs. We have beggars with their regular posts at street corners, intersections, sitting along the sidewalks downtown, sleeping in doorsteps and on the trains and park benches everywhere.
The heart of Mother Goose breaks especially for the women and children who have no where to go and seemingly live only by the kindness of strangers. I give and give and give because it’s the right thing to do.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25: 34-40)
This is how Mother Theresa describes the situation: “Whenever I meet someone in need,” she said, “it’s really Jesus in his most distressing disguise.”
How much doing is enough? How much giving is enough?
The dilemma of Lawrence Little is that we all want to help in some way. But like the Pastor said, we are not God. We can help in our own small ways or even big ways, but we cannot fix the bigger problem. I could give him every dollar in my checking account and he would still come back for more — offering to do work for me, of course.
Dear and kind-hearted readers, love your neighbors and care for the poor and downcast. Share your hope of heaven with them. Give them a cheeseburger or a giftcard to get their own lunch. Trust God for all things. Pray for wisdom and guidance from the One who loves us with an infinite and everlasting love.