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R.I.P. to a Hero & Giving to the Homeless?

November 23, 2011

Father Maurice Chase

For nearly thirty years, Father Maurice Chase would hand out dollar bills to people on Los Angeles’ skid row. “Father Dollar”, as Chase was called, stood on the sidewalk among the poorest of the city’s poor. He didn’t judge anyone; he simply gave dollar bills to everyone who stood in line. Father Chase didn’t care if the people used the money to buy food or drink or drugs, he only wanted those people to know they weren’t invisible and that they were loved.


Father Chase would solicit money from wealthy benefactors in the city, celebrities mostly, and he would generally give out $2,000 in dollar bills on Sundays and as much as $15,000 in both dollar bills and higher denominations on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Women with children and the disabled received money first and then everyone else, no questions asked. It’s not known exactly how much money he gave away during the course of his work.

“I met Mother Teresa in Mexico City once, and she told me to touch the poor. Do you hear that? Touch the poor.” – Father Maurice Chase

Father Chase died at his home in Los Angeles this past Sunday.


All of us have our personal beliefs in God and I would never question anyone else’s beliefs, or non-beliefs, but when I think about the subject, I wonder if what we do on weekend mornings or what we pray for really matters. What we do on the weekend is good, and yes, prayer is, I think, important, but what I wonder is, if we really want to effect change in the world, do we need to move beyond the passive pursuits like weekly gatherings and silent prayer and start actually acting in the ways we believe God would act. In other words, instead of praying for changes, we pray for the strength and courage needed to make those changes and then we go out and make the changes ourselves. Rather than sitting around and waiting for the miracles we pray for to occur, we go out and make the miracles happen. We don’t let ourselves get hung up on where to start or the right way to go about it because we accept that there is no right or wrong way to go about it and no one place to start the work. We let ourselves believe that simply starting the work will be enough.

I know a lot of people argue against the idea of giving a dollar to the people we see at intersections and highway off-ramps holding up homeless signs but I disagree with that. I don’t like the thought that the person asking me for a dollar might be scamming me, but that’s beyond my control and their lies aren’t my issue to deal with. However, I can’t assume that everyone out there holding a sign is lying and running a scam. Some of those people really need the money which is the key issue: what does the person need the money for?

People who disagree with me ask me what I think about the possibility that the person asking for the dollar turns around and spends the money on drugs or alcohol. My answer is that I don’t care. Most of those people – if not all of them – aren’t going to turn their lives around with the couple of dollars they make standing outside holding a sign all day. Their lives aren’t going to change if they suddenly get a hot meal in their stomach or a place to spend the night. I’m just fortunate and thankful that I don’t share their reality and if I can give them something that might help take the pain away or help them make it through the night then I’m happy to do it.

I’m really interested in hearing your thoughts.






4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 23, 2011 10:13 am

    I have to admit, I struggle with myself over the people holding signs asking for money on street corners and I rarely ever give any of them money. It’s a bias I don’t like fessing up to but I do recognize it is there.

    On the other hand, I drive right by the largest mission in Denver every weekend and occasionally stope to make donations of cash, gloves, hats, and blankets. Not the same, I know. It does help me feel better though.


    • Michael Fishman permalink
      November 23, 2011 4:13 pm

      To me, giving is giving so I think it is the same. Do you think your bias against the streetcorner folks is because of what they might do with the money or something else?


  2. Lyka Ricks permalink
    November 24, 2011 4:17 am

    The spirit of brotherhood recognizes of necessity both the need of self-help and also the need of helping others in the only way which every ultimately does great god, that is, of helping them to help themselves. ~ Theodore Roosevelt obtained from Helpfulness quotes


  3. November 25, 2011 6:13 pm

    Great post. I am shamefully behind in reading and commenting on my favorte blogs. Sorry. I have to admit I don’t give money to people on the corner, maybe it is because I wonder what they will do with the money. There is a homeless guy that hangs out nearby, and I will give him food occasionally. I have a friend that does nothing for herself. lives in shelters when she needs to, takes advantage of people when she can, shoplifts, goes to the emergency room alot when it is cold…but always has money for cigarettes and hair dye. I think she made me suspicious of people asking for money. One bad apple ya know? Maybe I should change my way of thinking.


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