Keep Your Coins, I Want Change

Mother Teresa once said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.”

I went to Walmart not too long ago. I was doing my regular grocery shopping while I was talking to my mom on the phone. Then I noticed a woman and a young girl approach me from the corner of my eye. She said, “Can you please help me and my daughter. We are going through some hard times right now and I just need some help feeding her. Can you please spare anything you have?”

I remember the look on her pale, but flushed face. She looked defeated. Embarrassed. And ashamed...ashamed because she was begging for help from some stranger in front of her young daughter. 

I also remember the look on her daughter’s face. She had rosey cheeks, light brown hair, and she stared at me with her big brown eyes...as if I was a giant. She couldn’t have been over four or five years old.

I ended the call with my mom and after weighing a couple of options I suddenly decided to go the ATM in the Walmart. And to be honest...as I was withdrawing $20 from the machine, I couldn’t help but to think, “I hope I’m not getting scammed. Am I just being naive here?” 

I still gave her the money...hoping and praying she was going to really use that money for the right reason. She said “God Bless You” and the little girl softly said “Thank You.” We both went our separate ways in the store.

I called my mom back to tell her about what happened as I was finishing up my grocery shopping. About 10 minutes later, I saw the woman and her child from a short distance. They didn’t see me, but I saw them. I saw the woman getting bread, a ham, and some water. I also noticed that the woman was wiping her eyes as she was getting her things. She was crying. 

When I got home, that experience made me think about poverty on a deeper level. Often times, people will tell me, “Don’t give cash to poor people. You may be feeding whatever addiction they may have.” As I initially get that sentiment...but what if you’re actually feeding them with food and not some kind of “addiction”? 

I remember when I was walking with a friend one day and they told me, “I never give poor people money. They’ll just spend it on alcohol.” I said, “Well that’s what you’re going to spend your money on later on tonight...so why judge the homeless man?”

Again, I completely understand that sentiment. I get it. And if you still don’t feel comfortable giving people money, I get that too. But I’m willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. Is that naive of me...yeah, maybe. But it doesn’t always have to be so black and white. Poverty isn’t so simplistic as people try to make it out to be. It’s not like all poor people are in the position they’re in because they’re some kind of “addict” or simply “lazy.” So before we simply be dismissive to the idea of giving poor people money...just maybe reconsider it.

People can be poor and homeless for a variety of reasons...whether it be because lack of affordable housing, mental illness, lost their job, born into poverty, (which one has absolutely no control over) or lack of a living wage.

Speaking of lack of a living wage...let’s address how we spit in the faces of our teachers. You know, the same people who take care of our kids for about 7 hours a day...the same ones who are obligated to be role models and mentors, provide necessary discipline but balance that with motivation to do better, offer support and encouragement, help mold and shape our minds, educate kids for their future—and oh yeah—another requirement recently was added to the job description—be ready to “take out” a gunman who enters the school seeking to carry out a massacre (Whew...that’s a lot for one person.)

But yet we pay those same people nickels and dimes as they buy their own school supplies and then expect them to be okay with it. It’s sad how it’s gotten to the point where strikes have taken place in states like Oklahoma, Arizona, West Virginia, Colorado, and many other places. 

By asking for the best resources for our schools can afford, up to date school equipment/textbooks, better funded schools, with a decent living wage for our teachers—somehow makes you “entitled.”

Now I’m sure that teachers don’t sign up for the job thinking “oh I’m going to be a millionaire.” But at the same time I’m sure they don’t expect to struggle as much as they are either.

Why do I bring up teachers? Because the woman was one.

Before I left the store, as I was about to cross the street to head home, she caught up with me. As tears streamed down her eyes, she thanked me again and told me that she was a public school teacher at a failing public elementary school. When the school closed down she said she took a leap of faith, by taking a 5 hour bus ride to DC, staying at a shelter, but hoping for another teaching opportunity in the area.

This is another form of injustice. Poverty itself is a form of injustice. The way we treat our teachers is a form of injustice.

“Sometimes I want to ask God why He allows poverty, suffering, and injustice in the world when He could do something about it...but I am afraid He might just ask me the same question.”