He came up to me and my sister at the mall (almost walked past us), said he was stranded, trying to get to some town an hour and a half away. Had his wife and two-year-old in the car. Said he tried to use his military ID at Sears to get some kind of discount. No cash. Ten or twelve dollars would probably get them home.
I don’t really believe his story. He has literally EVERY emotional trigger you could have in a story, veteran, father, husband, stranger far from home, stranded. Part of me wants to believe him. I want to help a person in need. So I gave him five bucks.
A nice, older gentleman came up to us after the other guy walked away, “Did he ask you for money? He had just asked me.”
“Yeah, I gave him five bucks.”
“Seemed like he was looking for something else, like a fix. Did you see how he was sweating.”
I shrug. “Five bucks is no skin off my nose.”
We walk away.
I realize, I don’t really care if I gave five dollars to a drug addict. I don’t care if I gave five dollars to a devoted husband just trying to get his family home. I don’t care. Because if I care then I have to analyze and figure out if he was telling the truth or not. I have to justify my actions to myself. I have to make myself believe I did the right thing. But you don’t have to do any of that if you just don’t care about the whole situation.
I was going to say no. Was gonna tell him to move along, especially when he brought up the two-year-old kid in the car. Like, dude. You already had me, I’m grabbing some ones, less is more. But I didn’t. It’s that part of me that wanted to believe him. I’ve been solicited for money before and I’ve said no before. I’m not irresponsible. But I’ve heard far too may stories of people at their lowest, just absolute rock bottom, who were helped by begging ten bucks off a stranger and that ten bucks saved their life. I don’t think I saved any lives. Then again, maybe I did. I’ll never know.
But I’m totally okay with that.
Honestly, I’m a very cynical person. The world is bleak. The economy sucks, my job prospects suck, the presidential candidates suck, environmentally we’re in shambles, the world is infected with war, poverty, hunger; I don’t need more reasons to distrust humanity. Humans are, on the whole, vile. So when a person appearing in need comes up to me and says all he needs is a few bucks to make his life a little better, I figure I can spare some change. Even though I don’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth, I don’t care. I need to give him the five dollars probably more than he needs it.
So in the end, I gave an untrustworthy person a few dollars because I selfishly need to think that it’s possible he used that money for something good. I acknowledge that it’s also possible he used it for something bad. But I choose not to care either way. I’ll never know and I’ll not dwell on it beyond this. God didn’t call me to be kind only when I’m absolutely sure that everything is going to go perfectly well. He called me to show love and that gets harder and harder every day. Like I said, I don’t do this every day, I don’t hand out money to every person who asks. I research charities before I give, I spend carefully, I try to give material possessions to ensure things will be used and not money spent irresponsibly. But then occasionally times come when you must act and don’t have time to deeply consider (Note: in these times, be responsible with your money. If the guy had asked for twenty, I would have said no without thinking. He asked for a small amount that isn’t going to affect me in the long run).
The more I think about it, the more selfish I become. I did it for myself, not him. I can’t let my only glimmer of kindness toward humanity flicker into darkness just because someone MIGHT not be legitimately in need right this moment. Just because there are people out there who don’t need the money doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there who do need it. I can’t let the scammers and drug addicts take away my ability to give. They’ll know we are Christians by our love. And if that love is giving a guy five dollars in the mall because he needs it more than I do, then so be it.