It's an elegant term meaning donation upon death.
You leave money to the charity in your will.
The tax-exempt organization waits for you to die.
I have a better idea.
Not planned giving.
Here's the way it works.
If you come across someone in need, you give them money.
Now I warn you that most police departments say I'm nuts.
Giving to the homeless can be dangerous.
I hear that.
But I'm haunted by the beautiful story of the final judgment told by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.
When, Master, did we see you hungry and not feed you, naked and not clothe you, homeless and deny you shelter?
Jesus tells the condemned they missed him.
Disguised as those in need.
That's why I concluded spontaneous giving is perfectly acceptable.
The beggar downtown is Jesus, isn't he?
Not sure, are you?
For me, it started about five years ago.
I attended noon church service on a Friday in Advent.
In the vestibule, just before mass, a young woman appeared out of nowhere.
Told me a tough story about a lost check and hungry children.
And her hope in me.
That's when crazy really kicked in.
I let go of rational thought and let compassion rule.
I told myself that whatever denomination of currency I pulled from my pocket, I'd hand it to that lady.
Momentarily, I forgot my plans to Christmas shop that afternoon.
It was an act of blind faith.
You take over now, Jesus.
Whatever I pull out goes to the needy mom.
A $100 bill!
I gave it to her.
She hugged me.
I attended the service, my pocket lighter by one Ben Franklin.
But my spirits were lifted by the exhilaration of surrender to love.
You don't have to be that insane.
But you can spontaneously give something, even to a panhandler that just might use it for booze or drugs.
You don't know.
So don't judge.
My Dad once invited a homeless man to a downtown restaurant for lunch.
Both men were thrilled by that meal.
Dad was like Will Rogers: never met a man he didn't like.
I once had a priest give the following penance in the confessional: say yes to the first person who asks for help.
On the sidewalk, a stranger down on his luck came right up to me and asked for money.
I gave him some cash.
And I was more than okay with that.
I know they'll be criticism of this column.
Don't abandon all common sense in favor of reckless and dangerous behavior.
But I know you.
You have that impulse that occasionally moves you.
Be careful, but it's alright to act on that impulse every now and then.
Maybe the Son of Man is that putrid smelling hobo holding a sign on the shoulder of the road.
You might see him again sometime on judgment day.
Why take the chance?