Back in the days when I was in religious community, we ran a home for those who had no other home, or needed a place to feel "safe". We made a home for former psychiatric patients, ex-prisoners and people on probation, as well as those who were simply "lost" and seeking "something". One of the things we considered essential, however simple, was the "Never-empty Biscuit Tin".
For those who are Americans, and some others, the term "biscuit" refers to what you commonly think of as "cookies", not the hot bread-like item one spreads with butter and jam. You might ask yourself, "how can "cookies" be a part of any religious communities' "essential" activities?"
When an individual or a group of individuals get together with the idea of "helping", they need to constantly keep in mind what "helping" means in any given situation. We know what "we" want. We "know" what we think others need, no matter how wrong our ideas may be. We can not know completely what another "person" needs, only that they need. We struggle every day, just to understand what we think "we" need. Offering help to another requires stepping far enough from ourselves to see what is needed. This requires absolute commitment. Not commitment to "helping", but simply absolute commitment. The only thing you can offer openly and honestly is Love itself.
Our community offered a prepared breakfast, supplies for a self prepared lunch, and a full supper. This is what you would offer anyone you were "looking after". But this is obligation. Sure, meals convey "love" very well. They nurture, and satisfy up to a point, but they are necessary to survival. Providing meals may be interpreted as simply seeing to it that no one gets sick, and do not become a "burden" or problem. Conveying love requires more.
When I was a boy, and would do something that got me sent to bed without desert, or if I was angry and locked myself in my room all day, the great release came when my Mother or Father would come and bring me a bit of something; a cookie, or a piece of cake. I remember many times breaking down and eating the sweet treat through bitter tears of sorrow and remorse, making the treat seem like the physical embodiment of Love. Something extra, something that is "not required" conveys the idea that "I care" or "we care". This is so important to the poor, whether poor in finances or spirit.
The placing of a Biscuit Tin, that was never allowed to go empty, and was always available to everyone, while seemingly un-necessary, was a boost to the spirit and a way to say "your important", not just as a human being, but as a "loveable" human being. The poor, no matter what makes them "poor", struggle to get even the simplest needs met, and are mostly very grateful for whatever they receive. But to go beyond that, to make available an "extra", even something as simple a cookie, says yes, I love you. I want you to have, not only what you need, but something lovely, something fun.
We grow up in a society that complains about "entitlements" and taxes. We will begrudgingly allow that we, as a society, need to provide for "the public welfare", but we also want to guard against "abuse" by the poor. We believe in "tough love"; a term invented to label abuse of power, revenge and brain washing as some kind of "helpful" procedure. You add "tough" to love, and the love vanishes. So many in our society have grown up with no love. Tough love has been applied to every situation. Beatings, deprivation, the idea of "the giving and withdrawing of love", are what produces school bullies, and later, corporate thieves without any moral or societal conscience.
We can not "help" the poor, while making them feel we are only doing it grudgingly, or out of obligation. This is counterproductive. We are so afraid of being "taken advantage of" that we give our "love" only cautiously; which is not love at all. Love is only love when it is given freely, without caution, without fear of our "being taken advantage of." Tough love is "conditional" love. Love with fear or concern is "conditional". Unconditional Love requires giving without concern for results.
Unconditional love requires simply being. And in that being, the realization that the "other" is also "being", not separate, but the same universal being. All we can know is that they need love. We can not know what they, as individuals need specifically, but we know they need love. We must give them what they need. After we have given all we can, and the needs are met, go one step further, offer them a cookie.