[continued from yesterday]
...So again with a wasted alms. I may not approve of promiscuous alms-giving, but that does not prevent me from seeing that even promiscuous alms-giving is not wholly bad.
Nine times out of ten I may be cheated; but if the tenth time I failed, in a case of real distress, could I ever forgive myself? And besides it is not every wastrel that is wholly reprobate; even among tramps there have been saints. The wastrel who meets you may not deserve your penny; if he receives it he may even chuckle at his fortune, and your weakness; nevertheless, as often as not, he goes away with something more than a penny in his hand, something in his heart of which he is not aware, but which some day will bear fruit; the memory of one who has treated him above that which he has deserved, the memory of a kind deed done.
Talk some day, if you like, with any common tramp. Get his confidence and see what he will have to say; not with the object of deceiving you, but on a footing of equality. A hundred to one he will harp upon one or two subjects; the kindness he has received from someone or other in a moment of particular crisis, or the wish, perhaps I should call it despair, lying at the back of his heart that he could have been or could be different.
He may make no change in his life after he has spoken; he may show his deliberate intention to make no change; he may spend your twopence at the next alehouse. But he will probably add your memory to that of others who did not treat him wholly as a pariah; who for a moment let him feel that in spite of all he was a man among men. Perhaps some of us would not think that in such a case our alms was wholly wasted.
Similarly we might argue about that still more hopeless matter, the conversion of one dear to us; more hopeless in one sense, because the special end we have in view seems so seldom to be gained, but surely not more hopeless when we think of the supernatural forces with which we are venturing to deal. Here more than anywhere else we have the guarantee of God Himself that our efforts are not in vain; and in those safe hands we are content to trust our all....
From The School of Love and Other Essays
by The Most Reverend Alban Goodier, S.J.
Burns, Oates, & Washburn, Ltd. 1918