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.