Magazine article The Christian Century

More Than a Free Lunch

Magazine article The Christian Century

More Than a Free Lunch

Article excerpt

LYDIE RASCHKA'S ARTICLE (p. 10) on her experience of helping serve dinner to homeless and hungry people at Thanksgiving raises issues that I think about a lot these days. Raschka reflects on her "thinly disguised slumming" and acknowledges that most of the white volunteers serving the black and Hispanic guests would go home and eat gourmet Thanksgiving meals.

It's an issue for many of us in this wealthy and comfortable nation, with its underclass of the poor, hungry, unemployed and homeless: What exactly is the faithful response, individually and institutionally?

On almost every corner of Chicago's Michigan Avenue is someone asking for money--sometimes quietly, sometimes aggressively. Two people claim spots outside the church I serve, one a double amputee in a wheelchair, the other a man who sits with his dog in his lap in all kinds of weather. Passersby know them by name. Tourists give them a lot of money. You can hardly afford to open your wallet to all who beg, so regular pedestrians develop an eyes-straight-ahead strategy or mumble, "Sorry, not today--maybe next time."

Should we provide food or work politically to address the causes of urban poverty? There's no simple answer. In her book Living Well While Doing Good, Donna Schaper, pastor of Judson Memorial Church in New York, takes a strong stand on the side of justice, not handouts. After giving some change to a limping boy in South Africa and then being surrounded by 50 other children with their hands out, Schaper vowed that her giving "would no longer be spur of the moment. …

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