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Homeless deserve compassion, not contempt   2011-01-11 12:14:00

I first learned about the Yellow River Soup Kitchen from a friend in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province. A charity founded by a British resident of the city, it serves a group that has often neglected by public charities in China - the homeless.

Three times a week, the kitchen gives haircuts and prepares hot dinners for the homeless, using a space provided by the Catholic St. Francis Cathedral. After those present are served, the kitchen staff tour the city bringing food and, in winter, warm clothes to those who can't make it. All the work is done by volunteers.

The homeless in China enjoy a mixed reputation. I can't recall a single fund-raising campaign for people living on the street, though I can think of plenty of projects to help children in poverty or victims of natural disasters.

An experience I had when helping the Yellow River Soup Kitchen with winter clothing donations illustrates one common attitude. After learning that the clothing was for the homeless, one person said, "I'm not giving anything to beggars. They can work but they'd rather beg. They are just lazy. They don't deserve my help."

What puzzles me here is the criteria some people set for others to "deserve" their help. What is charity? Charity is opening your heart and lending a hand to someone in need. Charity is voluntary, unconditional, and driven by compassion. Is one type of suffering more honorable than another? Even if it was, we are here to help, not to judge.

Many of us have lived through a time where rigid, even dogmatic moral codes were applied. Almost everything could be politically labeled as either good or bad and be treated accordingly. To me, the mindset seems to be one of the significant barriers to true compassion and humanity. If a person is begging for a living out of laziness it does not change the fact that he needs help, that without enough food and warm clothing he might perish in this harsh winter. Would you say that is what he "deserves?"

It might also be helpful to keep in mind that our judgments of good and bad are often wrong because we don't know all there is to know about the circumstances. Let's look at the homeless example again. Do they have better options than panhandling?


source : Global Times     editor:: Big Mouth
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