do you ever get annoyed with the issue of giving to beggars? it should be a lot easier than it is. really. why should i ever have to calculate in my head if/what/how much i should give? should i ever have to try to dig into why somebody is asking me for the $.24 they need to catch the bus to the other side of town? should i then question why they are sitting at starbucks with clean clothes and sunglasses that look brand new? or how they got to starbucks in the first place? or how many bus trips they have taken in the past few days to get to wherever they are going? or why they need to be taking so many bus trips, because clearly if they didn’t, they wouldn’t need to be asking for money? i shouldn’t be asking these questions. period.
let me tell you a little story.
last night after work, i had to stop to get gas before going home (because there are basically ZERO gas stations within a few mile radius of my neighborhood…SERIOUSLY. help a brother out. the other day i happened to be on “e” and i could either drive 7 minutes to get gas, or 10 minutes to get gas at the station next door to work. there is something wrong with this. i get it, cary, nc, you want to stay pretty and everything, which i totally appreciate, but a dang gas station remotely close to where i live would be nice. i mean, not that i feel that somebody should spend tons of money just because i sometimes forget to use my brain and make sure i have adequate gas in the tank, God forbid there is an emergency, but for the rest of the huge community i live in. it would be quite a successful business venture. maybe i’ll be an investor). as i was pumping le gas, i hear the dreaded “sir…sir? sir!” (ugh, reminds me of the time when i was in detroit for a summer dance intensive. this particular instance occurred at yet another gas station. we had stopped to fill up and get snacks and i happened to be the last one back to the van. my chaperones and peers thought it would be just hilarious to lock me out to deal with the homeless person that was approaching. [detroit is obviously known for the amount of homeless people there]. i started frantically yanking the door handle and giving what i found out years later to be my “parent face” to the hysterically laughing people in the van, hoping they would unlock the door. in the middle of my rant, i heard those same words: “sir…sir? sir!” and they were getting closer and closer, so of course, to unintentionally make it more awkward than it already was, i waited until she was almost at my back, then turned around and said “hiiiiiii.” a scene straight out of a movie). once i realized this guy was talking to me, i turned and looked at him as he dove into his shpiel. i couldn’t understand most of it because he was talking at 90 mpm (miles per minute), but what i got from the whole thing was that he is from greensboro, just dropped somebody off at the airport, and his 2.5 months pregnant wife left their debit card somewhere. whether she left it at the hotel, sheetz, or food lion i’m not sure. oh, and that he needed food and gas and that airport people are mean. he threw that in there, too. he kept on with the whole “i don’t ask for much, i’m an honest person, you know, baptist person” thing and told me he would send whatever money i gave him back in the mail. because i’m going to give a begging stranger my home address.
as annoyed as i was, i remembered a conversation that i was a part of one night at small group about giving and our motive for it, so i decided to help him out. really, what is $10? so i told him i’d put some gas in his car. i think he was both baffled and caught off guard at my offer, because his hesitation and acceptance of my offer was shrouded with disapproval. really, dude? you’re asking a stranger for help and you are going to be choosey? i didn’t have cash on me, but i could tell that’s what he really wanted. “even just 2.5 gallons would be helpful,” he says. anyways, i walked over to the pump where his car was parked and started to, very discretely, put my debit card in the card reader and get this process started. when i turned around ready to pump gas into his car, he hands me a gas jug. “this thing holds 2.5 gallons.” i was like…??? “i just realized my wife took the keys to the car when she walked over to chick-fil-a to try to find food.” (chick-fil-a is probably 50 feet from this gas station). again, i was like…??? “i need the key in order to get to my gas tank.” at the time, i was too flustered to remember that some people buy locks for their gas caps, so i questioned him. not once did he open the fuel door to prove to me that he needed a key. upon pressing the issue, and him sensing my doubt of the legitimacy of his request, he started saying things like “it’s ok, you don’t have to help. it’s not your problem.” but these little statements were DRIPPING with guilt directed at me. at that time i was so mad. i was mad that, up until that point, i had swallowed my pride and agreed to help this man, but i was more mad that i had been taken advantage of. so i kept hitting “cancel” on the card keypad so i could put the pump back and go home to eat dinner. tell me the dang thing wouldn’t cancel. REALLY? over and over i pushed that little yellow button, and with so much fervor. i tried everything more than once. finally i turned to him and, probably somewhat begrudgingly asked, “all right, how much will that thing take?” “2.5 gallons or so.” i proceed to pump gas into this jug. i had been looking at how many gallons i was pumping as opposed to dollars, and at just below 2 gallons, the gas neared the top of the jug, so i stopped. the total came to $6.06.
at this time, i decided to calm down just a little, because what’s done is done. i thought it would be best to actually connect with this man in some kind of way. i’ll admit, there was a hint of a spiteful motive in taking time to talk to him a little bit. a very small part of me wanted to hold him accountable for scheming to get money. was he telling the truth about needing a key to open his gas cap? i’ll never know, but i did have half a mind to fling the fuel door wide open. i should’ve. it doesn’t matter, though. i proceeded to ask about his wife and their baby on the way. was this potentially another lie? i don’t know. he said they’ve been married 20 years and didn’t have any children. dude was pushin’ 50, although he looked aged, so maybe he was younger than i thought. so i gave him all the parent advice i could for somebody who is about to enter that cramazeful (crazy, amazing, stressful) journey. he told me they waited so long to have kids so he could learn maturity and responsibility. -_-
so what do i do with all of this going forward? ultimately, we should give whenever we can. it isn’t my responsibility to determine somebody’s life decisions with the $5 i throw their way, and i shouldn’t give based upon whether i think they will be responsible with it or not. heck, i shouldn’t even give because i’ve been helped out before. i should give because of the love that i should have for people. that’s the only reason. i shouldn’t put anyone’s motives for asking through any sort of qualifiers to deem them worthy of my resources or not. after all, my resources did not start out as mine, and when i use them, they definitely won’t be mine, wherever the end up. yes, people tricking others into giving them money/food/whatever is definitely an issue, but as a giver, that’s not my problem. my responsibility is to meet a need, not to give only when the beggar’s circumstances meet my perception of when something is deserved.
these types of situations aren’t the major issue, but they certainly point to some. it wouldn’t take much reflection to figure out what they are, whether you’re the beggar or the giver. so next time you’re approached with “sir/ma’am…sir/ma’am? sir/ma’am!” (which by the way would be HILARIOUS if they said “sir/ma’am”! well maybe not too funny, because that would suggest that your gender cannot be determined. unless you’re going for that, then it would be hilarious), i would challenge you to try to give and connect. it might not do much for somebody who’s looking for spare change to get a buzz somewhere, but maybe it would for somebody who’s asking in earnest. i can only hope that genuine giving would start to hold a mirror to beggars, but it will DEFINITELY change you.