Helping without harming
As A Buddhist, Christian, or a follower of most religions or moral codes, helping the less fortunate is part of what we should do. For some practices it is acceptable to put a few coins in their bowl or hat. As a Buddhist I have to also consider if by giving help, I am not causing harm by my actions. If I give some money and the person uses it for food, medicine, needed clothing or other necessity then everything is good. If however the person use it to support an addiction, I am not helping that person, rather I am causing harm. I have written several times about taking a person looking for assistance to a restaurant and purchasing food to go then sitting and sharing the meal at a park bench, so offering conversation as well. Another friend will find by a new item of clothing or two in a suitable size, and give or trade with the person. Recently they have been buying runners, hence the trade. This way they take the old shoes that are beyond use, and dispose of them properly, and ensures the person isn’t able to sell the new ones for a few dollars. Yes these people made a bad choice or choices at some point, that has lead to where they are, but they are still sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, perhaps parents or grandparents. Call it kindness, compassion, charity, or what ever term you wish, we all can hear the call for help. The question is how we choose to respond.
The impetus of today’s entry: I was reading the news today and saw an article from Edmonton, Canada. It is a city sponsored program to encourage giving to charities, rather than giving cash. They are not the first city to do this, nor should they be the last city to do this. It encourages those who need help to make contact with groups or agencies that can provide help beyond a few pennies. They then have access to services, medical treatment, and even government services. Leaving the person without any help or hope is against most moral codes. Lets all get together, and make it a point to help those sitting on street corners, sleeping in alleys, and other unacceptable conditions.