So I made this cake for my coworkers today. It was a cake mix-overhaul lemon blueberry pound cake. And it was literally delicious. My approximately one dozen officemates ate 90% of two loaf cakes in 8 hours, so I know it was good.
I packed up the rest and walked out the door toward the metro. I was just debating whether there was enough left to wrap up for a friend finishing finals or if I should leave it for H when a homeless woman called out to me: can you give me some food?
I usually don’t give cash to street beggars because I’m on a budget, but I always offer my leftovers or packed lunch for hungry people. If someone is willing to take half a burrito, or your turkey sandwich, they need all the help they can get.
So, I walked over, opened up my tupperware, and told her I had lemon blueberry cake if she wanted it. She said thank you but then reached in and broke off half of what remained. I told her she could take it all, and she asked me the sweetest question: what will be left for you?
I told her it was just leftovers from work and I’d had my fill, but I’m so struck by how considerate she was. I obviously have everything I need and wouldn’t miss a bit of cake. (Honestly, I could stand to lose about eight pounds of cake!). I could replace anything I own with little worry or sacrifice. But still, she wouldn’t leave me without cake for later.
I convinced her to take it all, and then she reminded me to keep my tupperware and wash it out for another use.
I’m honestly pretty confused about how to respond to the homeless most of the time. Christians often say one of two things: “Get a job” (not entirely helpful), or “Did you walk past a homeless person today and forget to show them the love of Christ?” In a more guilt-creating but missional/pastoral way.
I think telling someone who lives in the street to get a job is like telling someone who is dead to get a life — clearly there are roadblocks there that can’t be overcome by harrowing rebuke.
But, I also don’t stop and talk. Mostly, I’m afraid that as a woman on the street alone, it is not safe to get too involved with anyone. Perhaps I’ve seen too many episodes of SVU where the stalker latches on because of eye contact on the subway. I really hate it when this one weird guy picks pansies and then tries to give them to me. It totally sketches me out. (I’m also completely uncomfortable with guys who hit on me, due to my Christian college bubble living.). So, I don’t engage.
Today, I did. And it felt good. I don’t really know if it is socially appropriate to give baked goods to people who may be homeless, but today I helped her, and she treated me with kindness. And maybe that’s all that matters.
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