Father of the fatherless and protector of widows
is God in his holy habitation.
God settles the solitary in a home;
he leads out the prisoners to prosperity,
but the rebellious dwell in a parched land. - Psalm 68:5-6
There is shame attached to being poor and having no family. Even those who choose to help are often judged, persecuted or ostracized for being "irresponsible" or having "misplaced" generosity.
God's Word and His saints have always been examples to me of how we should think and live in mercy and compassion for those in need. We are called to serve those who are vulnerable due to their lack of means or family. We are called to do this even to the point of appearing foolish to the world around us, even to the point of sustaining ridicule for those choices.
St. Paisios (learn more about him here and here) is a modern saint who is close to my heart and his life often inspires me. I read this recently and his example encouraged me and strengthened my own resolve:
In addition to taking care of the monastery buildings, Father Paisios cared for all who were in need. And there were many: poverty, neglect, and misery were widespread throughout the villages surrounding Konitsa. The Elder collected clothing, money, food, and medicine, which he would package and send to the needy. Many reverent women served as his co-workers to care for the helpless, and especially the elderly who had no relatives nearby to assist them.
He received permission from the authorities to place a donation box outside the police station and in each neighborhood of Konitsa. He then assigned people to look after them, establishing a committee that was responsible for the donations, which would offer assistance to those in need. Saint Paisios was also concerned for the poor and orphaned children, that they might complete their studies. He sent them to the appropriate people for help, but he himself also helped financially as much as he could. Later, many of these children would become learned professionals, for which they would credit the Elder.
The Elder made the monastery's fields available to poor families for cultivation, asking no rent. He only told them that, if they had a good crop, they could offer whatever they liked to the monastery. If the year didn't go well, he asked nothing of them. When his sister Christina brought him food or clothing, he refused to accept it, telling her to take it to families that he knew were needy.
On the Feast of Theophany, he would visit the villagers' homes with the sanctified water, and people would give a little something for the monastery. One Theophany, he visited the home of a family with a disabled child. The child's mother went to add something to the donation box, but the Elder told her, "The Panagia doesn't ask anything of you - you have your own needs." And, with that, he poured out all of the money he had collected up to that point onto their table.
As Katie recalls, "He was very compassionate and helped everyone a great deal. Once I gave him a knit sweater that I had made for him, but when he later met a crazy woman on the street, he immediately took off the sweater and gave it to her so the poor woman would not be cold. I gave him other things as well, but he gave each of them away to the first person he met."
"Every week," reports another witness, "he would take food to an elderly man who lived alone, abandoned in a cave, and he would wash him with his own hands. He would set out from the monastery at the crack of dawn without anyone's knowledge." And a third witness remembers that the Elder would regularly visit an older poor woman who lived alone in a shack, bringing her food.
St. Paisios, pray for us!