I have learned an important lesson in life. If you walk into any store with a tie on, odds are you’re going to be hit up by a pan handler in the parking lot. You know the kind of person I’m talking about? The shuffling person approaches you and within minutes you hear a story of woe and pestilence that only the Biblical character Job could top.
Out of nowhere you get sandbagged by an individual who tells you they have been afflicted with everything from sand fleas to cancer, their family members have died and their pick up truck needs an alternator. All this while telling you they’re on their way east while really heading south.
In one such encounter, I whipped out my cell phone when the individual told me he had no money to get home following his grandmother’s funeral. I asked him to give me the name and phone number of a family member who could verify his story. He tried to look convincing when he told me none of his family members had phones. I looked him straight in the eye and said, “You want me to believe that not one member of your family has a phone?” I’m glad he didn’t dig his hole deeper by telling me his family name was Yoder and they were all Amish. Too late anyway, I saw his camouflage car.
I brushed by him, told the manager in the grocery store that a scammer was outside and as quick as you can say fundraiser to a politician, he was gone in a flash.
Following umpteen requests for assistance by a perennial family in my community, one day I asked them, “You frequently make benevolence requests from churches, have you found one to attend?” They answered no. To which I replied, “Help me understand this, why is our church money good enough but our friendship is not?” They couldn’t answer that question.
While sitting in a community outreach meeting which included multiple faith organizations, the common refrain among us was, “Are we getting hard-hearted or jaded to the plight of poor people?”
I can only answer this question with a story that mirrors today’s culture. A mother was enjoying a walk in the neighborhood with her five-year old child. The little boy had made the comment that he was hungry. Overhearing the conversation, a kindly looking older gentlemen was returning from the grocery store with a fresh bag of oranges. Reaching into his sack, he leaned down, patted the boy on the head and handed him a juicy orange. Upon seeing his kind gesture the mother said to her son, “What do you say?” Thinking for a moment, he thrust his hand with the fruit in it back at the man and said, “Peel it!”
Herein lies my plight in helping people. I don’t mind helping anyone, but when my kindness and benevolence is taken for granted, the story may end the way the little boy’s did, fruitless.
For those that might find my assessment harsh, consider the parable of the Good Samaritan. While the kind stranger took care of the man and his needs, he didn’t leave him his credit card.
I think I am jaded. The beggars in most cities make above the average pay for the city–without paying taxes. (According to the Washington Post). I volunteered in a homeless shelter in Fort Worth making nice meals. Our church’s night was tagged and the “homeless” that night swelled from 30 to 500, many arriving in nice, new cars. I worked for meals-on-wheels and delivered meals to old people playing video games with their sons on the couch in nice neighborhoods. I once had to wait for one elderly couple to get home–they were out in their car running errands which–with both their car and home that was nicer than mine!
The “Head Start” program once knocked on my door and asked me if I wanted my kindergardeners to join their program for free and she would come weekly to my house and teach my children to read. (She could hardly speak English herself.) When I said no, she begged and begged me saying that she needed to meet a certain quota of kids so they can get an increase in the local funding for head start that next year. When I again refused, she said she could ad least babysit for me that hour…. need a free babysitter for an hour a week?
When I was in Rome beggars are EVERYWHERE blocking every entrance to subways and museums and churches. They carry drugged babies and wear amazingly realistic but FAKE crippled legs and arms. I have had some of the best cons of my life pulled on me in Rome.
I could go on and on. Even seemingly legitimate CHARITIES (Red Cross, Catholic Relief Agency, March for Dimes) have used and abused it donors.
I am no going back to basics. “Love thy neighbor.” If I know someone who really needs my help, my family and friends get it first. Then my community…. and only those charities I really check out personally. We need to make certain we do not throw pearls before swine. Enabling swindlers isn’t what God meant when He told us to give charitably.
You are astute to spend your money wisely. When I help people I give them aid with this caveat, “the help you are receiving now is money given to God. Since it’s His money, He will bless it if it is spent on things that honor Him, if not, it won’t go very far.”
Thank you so much for your readership and encouragement. While I appreciate both, your friendship is most valued 🙂
Woopsie… lots of typos… I need my glasses when I’m writing online…. Love you John!