I came across a story happening now in Philadelphia. The news item received more than the usual 20 seconds of coverage. I caused me to wonder: What can a chef or a restaurant owner do to meet the needs of the poor, the needy, the homeless?
What can the average person do?
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I’ve seen photos of people digging through dumpsters in the back of a restaurant to get the left-overs, the remnants of food not eaten by paying customers.
I’ve seen images of kitchen staff setting food out by the back door where people can get to it without dumpster diving.
I’ve seen patrons take food out and hand the “doggie bag” to some person who looks like a homeless person, an underprivileged person, a beggar.
We might Give food, which they need, but don’t make any connection with a fellow human, which they also need. A grab-bag situation in which the giver is hurrying on his or her way.
These situations meet the momentary need of a person, but also tend to point out their condition: unable to meet their own basic needs. Needing to have hand-outs from strangers who feel sorry for them. Less of a man or woman than the giver.
It’s easy to give away food when your own tummy is full. It’s easy to hand a sack of food to a stranger when you know you’ll soon be in the safety of your car or your home.
Example of Giving
The Broad Street Collaborative is not like that. Their Breaking Bread program in Philadelphia, PA is open to anyone who walks through their doors.
A volunteer server guides each customer to a table, where they are seated in restaurant style. Table, table cloth, linens, flatware, glassware. Skilled servers move among the tables placing plates of chef-prepared cuisine for each guest. Five-Star appearing plates of food. Abundant servings.
Servers stop and converse with the guests, just like you’d expect in a quality restaurant, treating the guests like paying customers, with courtesy and attention.
Providing warm, friendly, human connections with a patron who probably spends his or her days being shunned by the people hurrying to work or shopping or home.
Wouldn’t it be great for every city to have such a place!
But, we don’t in my city.
What can I do?
I’m uncomfortable with the unknowns of the pan-handlers who walk the side of the road at almost every traffic light. Should I pass a dollar or two out the window to the person who appears to be in economic distress? To which one or ones? They are at almost every corner.
The local businesses that are focused on providing help to these citizens answer, “No. Not directly.”
The National organizations emphasize that many of these people are not going to be helped in the way that you might think, by giving them cash.
The best answer that I have found looks like this:
- Search for charities to determine the ones that direct at least 75% of their money directly to programs benefiting the needy. You might be surprised by how many of the National and International charities spend less than half of their donations on programs to help the needy, while their executives and directors receive salaries in the millions of dollars each year.
- Support local charities that provide for the needs of the poor and homeless.
- Volunteer to work with a local charity organization. In person.
A Giving Spirit is one of the characteristics of a Christian. Such a spirit is also advocated in the teachings of other religions.
Other Opportunities for Giving
My church prepares and delivers a meal through a local organization every Sunday. A group works in the church kitchen to get the food ready. Some members of the group deliver and serve the food at a local charity organization.
If your church doesn’t have an opportunity to serve, start one, or join one from another church.
Become a member of Kiva and make micro-loans to worthy projects around the world. Loans of $25 are made and managed by Kiva volunteers and agents. Click here for the Kiva website.
Systematic giving is the best way. Not a once-and-done effort. Build giving into your family budget.
“Freely you have received, freely give.”
I encourage you to give so that it makes the greatest possible impact.
Reasons to Be a Giver
A Giving Spirit gives back abundantly to the person who cultivates it.
A short list of 5 Benefits can be found here
1. It makes you feel happy.
2. It’s good for your health.
3. It promotes cooperation and social connection.
4. It arouses gratitude.
5. It creates a contagious ripple effect.
Other lists of 10 or more are easily found by searching the Internet. Example from Christianity.com
What will you choose to do to assist in meeting these needs?
Share with me your experiences with giving and working with the needy in your community.
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Comment or email me eldon @ eldonroberts.com
Thank you for reading.