How To Give So You’ll Feel Like A Humble Difference-Maker

What Almsgiving Teaches You About Humility

I met Eric on a street in Alhambra, California. He pushed his shopping cart past the window where I was sitting at Starbucks. He rummaged through a trash can finding a few treasures and placing them in his cart. I felt an urge to go out and talk to him but hesitated. He was gone. Then I felt guilty. “Lord, give me another opportunity,” I silently prayed. I left Starbucks an hour later and walked by Eric standing in an alcove between two buildings. This time there was no hesitation. I reached into my pocket. Oh my! All I had was a $20 bill. I hardly ever gave money to “this kind” of person let alone 20 dollars. I usually ignored street people. But, since almsgiving was on my radar, I could no longer do that. We talked. I got his name and some details about his life. As we talked something happened inside me. A compassion I’d never known surfaced in me. Before I departed I looked him in the eyes and, truthfully, thought I was looking into the eyes of Jesus. His “God bless you” sent warmth deep into my heart as I actually experienced God’s blessing. I don’t know if my actions made any difference in Eric’s life, but they made all the difference in me.

Almsgiving does that. From my experience, it taught me to get off my self-righteous high horse and have compassion on others. Not an “I-feel-so-sorry-for-you-such-a-pitiful-person” kind of feeling. But a genuine mercy that takes action. As far as I could tell, I was beginning to practice almsgiving.

He who gives alms in imitation of God does not discriminate between the wicked and the virtuous, the just and the unjust, when providing for men’s bodily needs.”
—St. Maximos the Confessor (580-662)

What are Alms? 

They are works of mercy or gifts of money given to the poor. God is merciful to you. You live out His mercy in you. You are called to help those less fortunate that yourself. (Matthew 25:31-46)

The bread you do not use is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of the person who is naked. The shoes you do not wear are the shoes of the one who is barefoot. The money you keep locked away is the money of the poor. The acts of charity you do not perform are the injustices you commit.
—St. Basil the Great (330-379)

How Much Can You Give?

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.
— C.S. Lewis (1898–1963), English author and scholar

Practical Ideas to Begin

  • Clean out your closet and give away clothes.
  • Have $1, $5, $10 bills available in your vehicle to give to those asking. Find out their name. Remember to pray for them. Put their name on a list to help you remember.
  • Volunteer at a homeless shelter, kitchen, or retirement home.
  • Be attentive to those in need around you in everyday life. Help them any way you can.

How do you or will you show mercy by almsgiving? Share below.

Dr. K

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

6 thoughts on “How To Give So You’ll Feel Like A Humble Difference-Maker

  1. On the way to work almost every morning, I once saw a woman begging at the 7-11 close to the office. One day, I pulled into the lot and gave her a box of food and toiletries. She smiled and hugged me. I never felt so much love. I gave this to her because of her value, not mine. What a blessing she was to me day.

    • Thanks, Liz, for your story. Let’s do our best to have more stories like this to tell. Keith

  2. working with the homeless and vulnerably house is something we do on a daily basis. Yes, there are times when I have given money, but more often than nought, the person will walk to the nearest store and buy alcohol, and possibly sometimes thats ok, I have watched them do it. It might be a better idea to carry food vouchers, clothing, especially socks, they are the most asked for, and the least given at homeless shelters. YES! provide for people’s needs, but providing for their addiction does them no service.

    • Thanks, John. Your ideas are well received. Giving alms is more than giving money. It can start there and help us learn to develop other helpful ways to meet the needs of others. You have much more experience in this than I do. This beginner can learn from you veterans. Thanks for engaging!! Keith

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