We’ve all heard stories of people who take advantage of the generosity of others. We’ve heard stories of people who report making a good living by begging. Many of my friends refuse to give money to panhandlers because they are afraid of being scammed.
A few nights ago I was approached by a man in a parking lot. He timidly approached me while I was sitting in the car before going into the store. He gave me the typical story…I’m a homeless veteran and I just want to buy a warm meal. I told him that I would be happy to go get him a meal. I like to do this instead of giving people money. He said, “God bless you for that” and I told him to wait right there and I would be back. As I pulled through the lot, it occurred to me that this man may have a warm meal, but could use a warm place to eat it (it was in the 30 degree Fahrenheit range here). I turned around and went back up to him to ask if he would like to jump in and ride with me to the restaurant so he had somewhere warm to eat. He looked like he was going to tear up at that question. I don’t know what he was feeling. It could have been shame. It could have been depression. It could have been that he’s just not used to people treating him like a normal person who just needs help. Regardless of what he felt, he was nervous about that idea. I think he was worried about someone getting upset that he was in the parking lot asking for help. He said he was going to head back to his tent. I told him that it was no problem. If he wanted to head that way he could meet me outside of the fast food restaurant that was on the way and I would get him some food. He agreed.
I went to the restaurant and picked up a few burgers, some fries, and some bottles of water. Then I waited. He didn’t show up. I drove back to the lot and looked around. He was nowhere to be found. Finally I drove down the road hoping to see him walking. Still no luck. He was gone.
I took the food home for my family that night. I don’t know if he was nervous, run off by the police, embarrassed, or running a scam. For a moment I thought about being annoyed. Then I remembered that it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I saw a person who needed help and I offered him that help. I know that I did the right thing. When I realized that, I began to feel the sadness that comes with the thought that there may very well have been a man sitting in a cold tent without any food.
In the end, none of my anxiety mattered. It didn’t matter why he was asking for help. It didn’t matter what made him emotional. It didn’t matter why he disappeared. I did the right thing. The next time you see a person who needs help, forget your fear. Don’t worry about someone being dishonest. It doesn’t change your act of kindness. If it doesn’t work out, don’t feel let yourself worry or get upset. Immerse yourself in the idea that someone needed help up and you reached out your hand.