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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Playing the Fool

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With a direct nod to yesterday’s awesome “key” post by Gerb, I think I’d like to go down the same road a little bit today because of a similar experience.

Number two son and I stopped at a convenience store the other evening. It was dark, and getting colder, so while the boy ran into the store I stayed in the car to keep it warm. After a minute or so there was a knock on the car window and a young woman’s face peering in.

She was asking for money.

Did I have just $10 so that she could buy formula for her baby?

I never know what to do when that happens…and it’s happening more and more often; The young man asking for spare change outside the grocery store doors; the older man with the cardboard sign in the corner of the mall parking lot; the young woman outside the Maverick with a story about a fight with her boyfriend and a hungry baby.

Because of the stories that I’ve heard from the kids I work with and because I watch the news, I know that there’s a decent chance that I’m being scammed. There’s a chance that that young man outside the grocery score is trying to get enough money to score an oxycodone at the park across the street. The older man with the cardboard sign declaring himself to be veteran could just be a veteran of too many trips to the liquor store. And the young woman tapping on my window could be…who knows…working for someone else or simply playing a game to see how much money she could collect that evening.

But I find that even though thoughts like this filter through my head (along with a decent wave of fear like Gerb said) when confronted with this type of request. At the end of the day I don’t care. Maybe I am being played for a fool – but maybe I’m not.

For me, asking for help is really, really difficult. It is only by the grace of a benevolent God and good friends that I am not pushing all of my belongings around in a shopping cart. If these people have gotten to the point where they are asking for help from strangers for whatever reason, I can’t put myself in the position of judging the purity of their motives because I recognize that mortification can exist in the asking.

There’s an old proverb that says “Charity looks at the need, not the cause. And another that says in this world we must help one another. Their motives are their own and mine is not to question why. It is little enough when truly, I have been so blessed.

I gave her $20.


Gerb said...

I can completely relate to what you said here. I am the same - I almost always give the money if I have it. I'll have to tell you the story sometime of the heartbreaking experience I had with a man needing someone to buy his alcohol fix. I didn't do it, but I will never forget the experience.

Richard & Natalie said...

Way to go, Mel. I would've done the same thing.
Better to play the fool than the jerk.

Anaise said...

I am learning that lesson bit by bit, and am grateful for your example.

Lori said...

Mel, I have such a hard time with this, for all the same reasons. I wrote a post, and I can't remember if I even posted it (I'll have to check) about a similar experience. We get homeless-with-signage hanging around our Chick-Fil-A and Wal-Mart fairly frequently and I always feel a pang, but I always kind of let it go. After all, they never approach me for anything, and it's easy to let it go when they don't approach you. Last time, though, I was pretty convicted to go and buy a meal at Chick-Fil-A, as well as some other food staples at the gas station for this one guy. I had just finished pumping my gas and pumping myself up to do so when he gathered his belongings and strolled quickly on across the busy intersection and out of sight. It was frustrating, but I felt like the Lord had taught me a lesson. Don't hesitate. Do.

I think I'm going to start carrying a bag of groceries in the car or something I can give away. ;)

Rachel said...

I like this post. I do the same thing. I'd rather on judgement day not have it on my head that I did not give when there were those in need. If they are scamming me/us.....then let it be on their heads.

007penguin said...

Thanks for this post, important to remember that is not always for us to judge.

Teachinfourth said...

There are moments in life when I've found myself in the same situation of you as well. I am just glad that I have never been in the other one.

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