Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Friday, August 9, 2013

"Will Work for Food"

     Some of you read the story about the new pastor of a large church with 10,000 members, who dressed like a homeless guy or a bum and wondered around the church entrance prior to the service.  He greeted people through his false scruffy beard, but only three people said hello to him and no one gave him a penny when he asked for change for food.  When the service began, the ushers sat him in the back row.

            The congregation was shocked when he was introduced as the new head pastor of this huge church.  His sermon was simply a quote from the Bible that ended with the statement by Jesus that “whatever you did for one of the least of these . . . you did for me.”  With that last sentence, the new minister said nothing else and closed the brief service.  You can imagine the guilt and self-examination that went home with the church members. 

            Many phonies make an excellent living by pretending to be homeless and hungry and may even become aggressive if taken up on the offer to “work for food.”  Some even resent being given food, because they only accept cash in unmarked bills.  That’s unfortunate, since there are many others who are actually in need.

            Any gift given to someone should be given authentically. Many people give to charity or personally give to others with the wrong motives. Public recognition nullifies true altruism, as does a “gift” when something is expected in return, like a political consideration.

            Anonymous givers are examples of people who are not looking for credit or affirmation of their generosity.  Of course, if the purpose is a tax write-off that’s a different story.  But giving anonymously without selfish motives is true “giving.”  If it gives you secret pleasure, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

            If you give an item to someone when that item means little to you or maybe was on the way to the dump, is that an authentic gift?  I once gave my buddy, John Chaffin, a bottle of wine that someone had given me. I’m not a big wine drinker.  The problem was that I didn’t notice the note to me written on the label by the folks who had given me the wine. Chaffin is still laughing about that “gift” forty years later. He won’t let me forget it.

            I think a gift is only a gift if it is something that you value and something that has meaning to you. When giving it, you are giving a part of yourself to someone.  I failed that test big time with my ignoble “re-gifting” of a nice wine for the Chaffin family. 

            There are a lot of ways to give authentically.  If you see a hungry man warming his hands on a cup of coffee in a fast food place, but no food, you might buy an extra hamburger and drop it on his table as you leave without waiting for a “thank you.” Or you might provide financial help to someone, even a few bucks, without the person knowing where it came from – that can be authentic altruism.

            Is giving always about money or tangible items donated or given away?  How about “time?”  Time is the only non-renewable resource we have.  When you spend time with someone - a grandchild, a sick friend or a healthy friend, or time spent helping a stranger - is that less generous than dropping a few bucks on someone knowing you can always replace the money?  Time is all we have and our time on this planet is limited, so what could be a more valuable gift than giving your time to someone?

            It’s a good exercise in character-building to approach the concept of giving to others without the recipient knowing or the anticipation of a “thank you.”  And, as I said, a gift is not always money.   

            Based on my understanding of psychology, I’m not sure that pure altruism is possible.  Even if you help someone anonymously, you feel good about it.  So it’s not totally unselfish, but that’s about as close as we can get.

            Just a thought . . .


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks, Jan. Now just make your check out to the "Higgins Relief Fund." I need gas for my Triumph.

  2. It is always good to pause and take stock of those things that we value most..

    1. I agree. And I think that in the process we will find that the "things" we value most are not "things," but relationships with family, friends, and our Creator.

  3. Esse'
    I still have that bottle that I proudly show my friends so they never
    make the same mistake.....just Kidding.
    However, I knew of one case wheeby a mantook a "homeless guy" to his house to cut his lawn and "work for food". After about 10 minutes on the job, the homeless guy knocked on the door and complained of a back injury.
    His next question was" you have workman's comp insurance don't you??
    I have seen people in wheel chairs get out of the chair, walk across the street, and unfold the chair and assume the "homeless role".....or get out of their nearly new SUV, walk across the park, and assume the homeless role at the exit of a McDonald's.
    I have often thought that some day I'll dress in my suit and tie and stand on the street island with a sign that says...." have meat loaf and bread....need mayo...God Bless"

    1. You've been holding that *&^%$# bottle of wine over my head since the days of our youth. My only suggestion, as you climb the ladder to your ultimate position as a homeless guy, is to forget the suit. Beat out Levis and a "wife-beater" shirt work better. If I spot you on a street corner, I have a nice bottle of wine to donate.

  4. You and John are so amusing.

    But you know, it is becoming hard to differentiate one who is homeless and in need of food, to one who has, like John says, taken on that role.

    The only experience I have actually had with the homeless was when working at the employment office. We had what was called 'Casual Labor Jobs'. The homeless would enter our lobby early in the morning, and when a minimum wage casual labor job was announced, there were no takers. But if there was a job paying, say $10 an hour, the majority were willing to work.

    It's hard as humans not to be judgmental. Working the streets pays a substantial amount of money per day. But true homelessness, not by choice, is extremely sad.

    I have a friend who every Christmas chooses a needy family's home, and on Christmas Eve, her entire family drops off Christmas presents to that home in the middle of the night. The children and parents of that house, only know it must have been Santa Claus.

    1. Your friend sounds like someone who understands the meaning of Christmas and how to apply it in human terms. That's authentic giving.

  5. My sister in law has started a Christmastime tradition in our family: we are all supposed to select our own gifts, post them on Amazon, until we all buy them for each other. I find that even worse than re-gifting. When I receive a gift, the part I like the best is the time someone took to think about me and try to guess what I would want. That part to me is the real gift.

    1. That is a different approach, but I agree with you. Something is missing in that process.