Thursday, September 4, 2008

To Give Or Not To Give

I just got back from a trip to the grocery store, where I had an, ahem, interesting encounter. As I was pulling into the parking lot, a woman and a girl (maybe 10 years old) were talking to a guy in the car directly in front of the space I was parking in, so I pulled in slowly. Anyway, I thought that the females were with the guy, but then I saw him leave a few seconds later. I locked my car, and was not paying attention to said people, when I noticed that they had made their way around the back of my car, and the woman says, "Hi. How are you?" I was a little taken aback and said, "Hi. I'm fine..." Then she gives this sob story about how they've moved from Florida and have fallen on hard times, are living in a hotel room, and so are selling flowers (cheap, plastic ones) to help out. So I ask how much, and she says "$3", and then amends it to "or whatever you want to give us; you tell me." So I look in my wallet and all I have is a $20, which I don't say to them, but I do say that I only have change, like quarters, nickels and dimes, in the car. She kind of shrugs and says, "We'll take that", so I dig out $2 in quarters and dimes (nickels are underrepresented yet again!!), turn around, give it to her and say, "Here's $2; I know that's less than what you were asking..." It crossed my mind to tell her to just keep the flower, but I held back, partly because it was her call and partly because I really wanted to see what she'd do. She hesitated for just a second, but gave me a flower. Then, and this is the odd ending to a wholly odd encounter, she says, "Lock your car", which I did (and was about to before she said that), and then she adds, "Don't lock your car keys in the car", to which I replied, "I've got them; thanks...good luck", and then I was on my way. I should mention that this happened at about 8pm, so it was dusk.

There were a couple of times where I could have cut the conversation short or said that I didn't have any money, but I was caught off guard and let's face it, I feel bad for people that are on hard times, I really do. And I just never know if it's a scam or what, if the person is lying through his/her teeth, or if I'm being told the truth. I realize (and realized) that it's entirely likely that it was a scam, but I have a lot of compassion, and in this case, I felt like I wanted to give them something in spite of any doubts I had. And in these situations, I always think of the King Benjamin scripture, (Mosiah 4:16-19) where it says:

16 And also, ye yourselves will asuccor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the bbeggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

17 Perhaps thou shalt asay: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

19 For behold, are we not all abeggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

I know that if I hadn't given them anything, I would be sitting here wondering if I should have, instead of sitting here wondering if I shouldn't have. This type of encounter always leaves me unsettled either way. I actually don't give far more than I do give, but sometimes it's easier to tell if you're being taken for a ride. I guess this time I gave because we have sufficient for our needs (although we're not rich or anything), I'm grateful for that, and I didn't want to withhold my substance. I hate being cynical and wondering if people are lying. It would just be so much easier if people had a sign on their foreheads that lit up, as in "THIS PERSON IS LYING, THIS PERSON IS LYING".

As a side note, if Jenna had been with me, I would've said no and gone on my way. I get a little bit "mama bear" when approached by strangers if my kid is with me. And if it had been a guy, that would have been a quick no followed by me running (or waddling) away. Here's a hint to guys, don't approach females in quickly darkening parking lots. Or at all. Hear, hear!

What do you do in these situations? I know it depends on the person, but specifically what do you do when you can't tell whether they're being honest or not?


Carolyn said...

There have been a few times where folks have asked us for money because they say they're hungry and need food, etc. Dan has offered to give them what ever food we had on us or to buy them something from a fast food restaurant. Usually the person says no thanks and walks away. At least this way feels like we know what they're really doing with our "gift." If they're hungry, they'll take the food. Who knows what they're doing with the money.

I agree though, the times I'm approached by people and I'm alone, I tend to avoid them or quickly get away. I'm very untrusting of strangers, male or female. And I tend to expect the worst of them. Maybe not the best characteristic of mine.

dan said...

I have a general rule to not give money to people on the street, because I feel like it doesn't (generally) help them.

One solution would be to not give her the $3 and then donate your $3 as fast offering or to the charity of your choice. Then you at least have a better sense that it is helping people.