Helping the Homeless Superstition

“Since religion is a huge part of our family, one of the like lessons that my aunt, my dad’s sister, told my cousin was like, you know, always give to the homeless, which is super like prominent here in South Central LA. And like, my cousin always does it without fail whether she gives money or food or anything because she believes that the one person who she doesn’t give it to will be Jesus and then when she reaches the gates of Saint Peter, like, Jesus will be like, “Why didn’t you help me that one instance?”

For the informant’s cousin, she does it out of fear in a sense, but also because she sees it as helping preserve her faith and maintain that goodwill. For her, it is necessary and she adamantly sticks to it. It does not have to just be money either, but can be food, clothing, or anything as long as you are still helping them in some way. However, for the informant herself, it is not as necessary. She explained that during her religious holidays, she is more likely to give either food or money to the homeless, but does not do so with every one that she comes in contact with. She explained that because she goes to school in South Central Los Angeles, she would practically be giving away all of her money due to the large population of homeless people in the area. When she does give money to someone, she often does so when she strongly sympathizes with them, like when it is a mother trying to take care of her child, etc. In that case, she often gives what she has, even if they are asking for less.

The informant relayed this to me while we were sitting on a bench on the USC campus.

While not the first time I had heard this, I found her story unique. To me, it shows two variations of practice within the same religion. For the informant, location and personal preservation play a huge factor into how necessary she feels it to be. For her cousin, the idea of denying Jesus help is more terrifying than anything else because of the potential of being denied entrance at the gates of Saint Peter.

I often have heard that people do not give money to the homeless because they believe they will buy drugs or alcohol instead of using it for what they say, but neither the informant nor her cousin seemed to think in that way whatsoever. Some people may believe the woman the informant gave money to was lying, but she felt sympathy for her instead of doubt. Overall, I think their lack of doubt comes from their belief, especially for the informant’s cousin.