They forgot to mention a grocery cart and a new squeegee

(The title is meant tongue in cheek —
as far as I know, Tim neither needs nor wants either of these items.)

I hesitate to even publish this post because:

  1. As Koffijah pointed out, we are so often motivated by outrage and not compassion, and I’m really struggling with that.
  2. I don’t want to encourage anyone to visit the website, because that only helps the marketing campaign.
  3. I don’t want to be defined by what I am against. I want to love what is good and hate what is evil. I also want to hate the sin but love the sinner.

    In case you’re interested, some of the items you can purchase for Tim are: a ham sandwich $3.50, cheeseburger and fries $4.00, GQ Magazine $6.00, karate lesson $45.00, 1 YR Wall Street Journal $125.00, Laser Hair Removal $130.00, 8G Ipod Mini $130.00, Gym Membership $300.00, BlackBerry Bold $500.00, 2 Semesters at University of Houston $10K.

    And here’s their slogan (I guess):

    Sharpie Marker…$1
    Using Internet Marketing to Fight Poverty…Priceless

    I would also like to point out the “Live Bum Cam” as they so eloquently call it has not been up at any time I have visited the site. Perhaps they’ve moved on to what they would consider bigger and better bums. But I’m not going to go back there and check, regardless.

    Alas, keeping my mouth shut is not one of my spiritual gifts, as you may have already surmised. I really wanted to post emails sent to me from the father and son team behind this campaign. But my husband strongly advised me not to do so, and I know he’s right. (Dang it!) I think it’s okay to say that they were both very polite and said that they understood my anger at the project. I don’t think they could ever convince me that somehow the end will justify the means, but on that point I suppose we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I will however, tell you what my email said to them:

Yeah. That’s hilarious. Glad the demoralization of a fellow human being is so very amusing to you. Your impassioned pleas for helping Tim get off the street don’t hold much weight when you ask him to hold up a sign that says “Pimp this Bum” and let people know he needs a sharpie and a cheeseburger.

Ah, well. Chalk one up for the dark side. I have friends that were spending time with Tim and his friends, helping them as they could, and treating them like human beings. (Were you aware that they actually are human beings?)

I would be wasting my time to tell you that you should be ashamed of yourselves. Clearly you have no shame.

As difficult as it is for me to do so, I’m praying for you.

(I left out a portion of the email only because it mentions Tim’s location specifically, and I didn’t want to post that.)

I would like to again stress that both men were extremely polite and courteous in their correspondence with me. They also assured me that Tim was “in on the joke”. But I’m at a loss as to whether or not they were sincere in their comments. I would also like to say that while I have yet to meet Tim personally, based upon what my friends have told me he well spoken, is an intelligent, caring, generous and compassionate person. It also does not escape my attention that while Tim looks like someone who lives on the streets, he is young, attractive, has good teeth and does not yet show the harsher physical attributes of someone who has spent a few more years on the streets. I’m fairly confident that this observation did not escape the attention of the marketing guys either. After all, who wants to pimp an ugly homeless guy?

There are so many things that bother me about this viral marketing campaign. Probably first and foremost is that even discussing it will in all likelihood cause their hit counter to rise, which is the desired effect. The hit counter doesn’t measure your distaste for the content, and interestingly enough, there is no comments section. Ultimately, it is my belief that they feel this experiment will look good on their resumes, attract advertisers and help Tim in the process.

I don’t know what will happen to Tim. I truly hope that he gets off the streets and begins to live a life full of hope. If this campaign allows that to happen, then good for him. I only hope that all parties involved understand that money does not address many of the reasons Tim is living on the streets in the first place.

I am continuing to pray for Tim, his friends, and the thousands of people who will sleep without a roof over their heads tonight – many of them women and children. I would be grateful if you would do the same.

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16 Responses to “They forgot to mention a grocery cart and a new squeegee”

  1. Mare February 23, 2009 at 6:44 am #

    >wow, thanks for posting this. I have much to think about and will probably write about this today.

  2. Candace Jean July 16 February 23, 2009 at 8:12 am #

    >Well said, katdish. I’m so glad that “keeping your mouth shut” isn’t a fruit of the Spirit because this needed to be said. I have nothing to add, other than that yes, I will continue to pray for Tim and others in his predicament. I’m also praying for some changed hearts for the folks pimping him. Prayer, that’s about all I can do right now. This still feels really raw after several days of thinking about it.

  3. sherri February 23, 2009 at 8:29 am #

    >There is a time to speak…and THAT may be one of your spiritual gifts!

    I still find this whole situation totally UNBELIEVABLE!

    As I said on your pastor’s site, I couldn’t get past how Tim seemed thrilled to tell his story to someone who seemed to care enough to stop and listen and ask him questions.

    That’s what bothered me the most- that someone would exploit the part of him needing attention, Not just his physical needs.

  4. Jude February 23, 2009 at 10:38 am #

    >I’ve been having a difficult time forming the words that express my distaste for that site. But Sherri’s point really rung true for me: they took a man who so needed attention and made a joke of him.

    Did they really say Tim was in on the joke??? That makes me even angrier and proves their intent was not honorable.

  5. Beth February 23, 2009 at 10:48 am #

    >Yeah, I’ve been thinking a lot about this….

    And one thing I keep coming back to is that maybe God led Jeff and the people at your church to Tim and his friends SPECIFICALLY because this needed to be heard and God wants to do something GOOD with something that was messed up….the Bible is full of examples like that, right? If more Christians are able to unite and understand the complex issues that go along with homelessness, well, I can’t help but be thankful for this whole situation as weird as that sounds. That could impact many, many homeless people. Keep praying and keep seeking after compassion…I’m trying to do the same…and know that I think you and your church are AWESOME (In case I fail to say that enough.).

    Here’s something positive that a guy in my area is doing with people who are homeless. I’ve seen a couple of their performances. Was it like going to a professional show? No. But it was good and entertaining and more moving than about anything I’d seen. Especially since after the show, the actors talk to the audience about homelessness and answer questions.
    Off the Streets Theater Group

  6. ♥ Kathy February 23, 2009 at 12:19 pm #

    >This is still really bothering me too. I got comments for both sides on the post I wrote. and every one that commented left good points. I really hope every one that lives on the streets can get help but I just don’t think degrading them is the way to do it.

  7. Ryan B February 23, 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    >I would be the first to agree that even though people are doing something good, with the wrong intentions it can definitely be bad. People can go to church but still sin if their heart isn’t in the right place. I don’t know enough about this site to make judgment, but I do have a heart for the homeless and if this site can get people to start talking and worrying about the issue, then great. God doesn’t cause sin, but He can use sin for good and I think that maybe He is doing that here.

    In the University Union the other day, some guys were yelling about repentance and sin and the whole “If you don’t turn to Jesus right now you are all going to Hell!” thing. I don’t think that that is the best way to share the gospel and I was talking about my distaste for it with a group of Christians. Some pointed out that while yes, their delivery wasn’t the best, they were speaking the truth and that things like that are good ways to get people talking. I did get opportunities to talk to a bunch of my dorm room friends about Christianity because of the crazy guys in the UU and I had excellent chances to share.

    I don’t know. I guess what I’m saying is that God works in crazy ways and sometimes these things that appear bad on the outside can be God working on the in. Yeah. IDK. I’m rambling. Have a good day everyone.

  8. jasonS February 23, 2009 at 5:12 pm #

    >Yeah, I was sick at the end of last week so I got to see all this and haven’t had a chance to post any response.

    I was terribly dismayed when I first saw the site, then as I watched the video I felt a little better (a little). I honestly don’t know what to make of all of it. I pray this somehow helps Tim, but like you said money alone is not going to cure his problems.

    Reaffirms to me the world is a mess and Christians (myself definitely included) need to get busy.

  9. jasonS February 23, 2009 at 5:21 pm #

    >Okay so I just read your comment on Pete Wilson’s blog and if the son (in the marketing campaign)said your pastor’s efforts were ineffective then I would have to borrow a phrase from Jen Aniston: very uncool.

    To me this whole thing is depressing, but it’s a very worthwhile discussion to have so you rock.

  10. katdish February 23, 2009 at 8:41 pm #

    >Mare – thanks for your post. I think you bring a unique perspective to this discussion.

    Candy – I agree, still very raw.

    Sherri – Agreed. The thing is, there were people (and still are) people willing to take the time and hear his story and to help him.

    Judi – I guess it remains to be seen if the joke is on him or not. That depends alot on how Tim deals with all of it.

    Beth – (cue the sci-fi music) Ron said basically the same thing yesterday, and I absolutely LOVE that link you posted.

    Kathy, Ryan and Jason – I’ve read so many angles on this that my head is spinning. And while this is hardly a compelling argument, the whole thing just makes me feel icky!

    Jason – I think you rock as well.

  11. Beth February 23, 2009 at 11:13 pm #

    >Oooo…I sounded like RON? Ron, the super smart?

  12. jody February 24, 2009 at 1:10 am #

    >RYC…:-) you put into words what my heart was trying to say. Thank you 🙂

    I just feel like they are the ones who will benefit and get famous off this. Tim will have a glimpse at fame get some money and then be where? C3 is connecting with Tim. I appreciate the time and true investment you guys are putting into their lives. That will bring about change and a lasting effect.

    I plan on reading your post tomorrow then commenting again 🙂

  13. Jody February 24, 2009 at 1:24 am #

    >ok I lied; I could not wait until tomorrow to read your post.

    Sometimes I think we need to discuss things instead of stay quiet. The key is to discuss in love and I think you have done a great job in admitting and checking your kick them in the groin feelings about this project.

    I think homelessness is something we as a society are too quiet about. It’s astonishing the number of people it involves. I interviewed in chicago and learned a lot about the homeless community there. A lot of them have jobs. But earning minimum wage they have to work more hours than their are in a week to be able to survive there.

    It’s interesting that this has all been stirred up this week. The day after i posted, a 25 year old my parents fostered that has been in and out of our lives since them, called them asking for help. He is currently homeless, physically and spiritually. He had nothing when they picked him up.

    And you know what, I can imagine him holding up that sign to get some cash. He would be one of the “handsome homeless men” this father/son team would like him.

    But him holding up that sign would get him nowhere but back into trouble. And then the cycle starts again. I’m sure they are excited to find their viral marketing working well. I just wish they cared about the outcome of Tim and others who are homeless more than they cared about “successful business”

  14. Helen February 24, 2009 at 2:15 am #

    >I left a comment here earlier, but apparently it didn’t take. That’s okay. It was just more of the same. i should have followed Hucklebuck’s advice and copied it to my clipboard first, but instead, I just hit publish, and didn’t check if it took. Sigh.

  15. katdish February 24, 2009 at 3:47 am #

    >Yes, Beth. Ron the super smart. But not Ron the super geek. You still hold that moniker.

    Jody – I think part of the reason people don’t have a problem with this stuff is that they really don’t know the harsh reality that these people live in. It is one thing to drive past someone in the relative safety of your car. It is quite a different reality when you actually venture out of your car and stand where they stand. Instant reality check. I am praying for your family and for the young man they have taken in. I am also grateful for your passion and get the feeling that you will make great strides for the Kingdom.

    Helen – I’m sure it was brilliant, so I’ll just assume that it was.

    Now seriously, people — I gotta get some sleep!

  16. JML February 24, 2009 at 1:14 pm #

    >Sherri makes a good point. I think that one of the biggest issues that homeless people encounter is that they begin to feel worthless because it’s difficult to have a relationship, to get attention on a human level and to feel valued by anyone at all.
    What the hell ever happened to people giving a crap about each other with no intention of gain or of taking advantage of them? “Pimp this bum” is a terrible thing for any person to say, think about, make a website for!! (?) I love that you don’t always keep your mouth shut, because in an instance like this, it’s going to take someone who doesn’t mind offending someone to make our pimp friends understand that they’re a little more than ridiculous!

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