On one of the particularly cold days last week my doorbell rang just before supper.
By the time I reached the front door of the Oblate Centre I found a large man still leaning up against the bell in the shelter of the entrance way.
Obviously cold and suffering the effects of some intoxicant he just asked for something to eat.
A quickly prepared peanut butter and jelly sandwich vanished almost as soon as it was placed in his bare hands. He then said he needed a ride.
With no car, a bus ticket was the best that I could do for that request. It took a couple of minutes more for him to gather his energy and head off down the street.
Another helping hand or two and a tolerant bus driver possibly would be needed before he found a warm place to stay that night.
Did I do enough?
Should I have walked him the couple of blocks to the bus?
Would a call to 911 and a request for more formal assistance for him have been the appropriate thing to do given the severity of the weather?
This past Wednesday, while cutting my normally winding path home across downtown after work, I saw the same fellow then in a whole lot better shape heading into a building on Main Street.
He had made it.
I am not sure how, but he certainly found the help he needed to get through that bitter night.
How many people in our communities, whom we don’t see, are in need every day?
How do we respond to their needs?
Do we have an obligation to those who don’t come knocking on our doors? What about the people in far distant lands struggling to live on a dollar a day?
Every major religion and culture practises almsgiving. This custom arises, it seems, from a natural moral law impulse to preserve human dignity and maintain societal order.
The word alms comes from an old Greek word eloes, which meant compassion. It represents the monies or material goods given to the needy.
Alms giving, as charity, sees donations willingly given out of one’s surplus.
In traditional Christian practice, obligations to satisfy family needs come first as do repaying debts owed.
Alms giving as justice demands much more of us, though.
Colonialism, imperialism and corporate globalization have all exacted a terrible price from the poor.
From slavery to the attempts to force the assimilation of our First Nations, unjust trade practices to the economic impact of environmental degradation an enormous global social debt has been incurred.
In order to address the accumulated inequity that lies at the heart of so many of the conflicts and problems afflicting our planet a great global almsgiving is required.
To right the injustices that have so badly split our communities, nation and planet into ‘haves’ and ‘have nots,’ giving of our collective substance not just of our personal surplus is demanded.
This Lenten season for Christians is a time for not only reflection and almsgiving but also for action.
The Food Bank Society of Whitehorse will be holding its next meeting on Wednesday, February 20, in the Yukon Federation of Labour boardroom at 106 Strickland Street at 5 p.m. All are welcome.