We Want to Help, but How and to Whom Do We Give?
A young lady approached me the other evening. I haven't been able to get out much, but I'm forcing myself to walk so that I don't completely atrophy. I put my dog in her harness and we slowly hobbled toward the neighborhood 7-11. As we came around the side of 7-11, a young lady came rapidly up to me and asked if I could give her money for gas.
I walked away from the whole situation feeling unsure of myself, perhaps a little let down, and I think mostly frustrated that I couldn't actually help. Now, before you think I just said 'sorry' and walked away, it didn't play out that way.
Once when I was in my manic and psychotic stage, I found myself on a back highway somewhere in Connecticut with no gas. I have no idea how I got there or why, but there was a man who gave me $10 and pointed me in the direction of a gas station where I could possibly borrow a gas can.
I felt a responsibility to this young lady, and offered to buy her enough gas to get home if she could bring her car to the gas pump. She told me that it was not at the 7-11, but rather at the O'Reilly Auto Parts just down the road and across the street. I told her it was worthless for me to give her money for gas until we had a way to get gas to the vehicle. She said she was just trying to get the money and would worry about getting a gas can later. Okay, I can understand that.
Rather than give her money and leave her standing in a gas station parking lot, I told her I could get a gas can and get it to her car where she said her grandmother and children were waiting. I told her it would take me about 15 minutes to get back home, get a gas can, get back and fill it up. She told me that she was going to check on her kids, so we agreed that I would meet her at the O'Reilly.
For some unknown reason, I wasn't wearing my glasses when I got to the O'Reilly parking lot, so I basically had to walk row by row of vehicles looking for the blue Dodge Caravan, hobbling along with a gas can full of gas. I must have looked a funny sight, or out of place at the least. I walked around and around the parking lot which was actually a strip mall, so I figured the car could be any distance from the O'Reilly.
After making the rounds and squinting at every car, ruling them out one by one, I stood in the middle of the parking lot. I'm hoping the best. Someone came along and had a gas can with them and quickly got gas for the young lady and sent her on her way. As I was getting ready to start the slow slog home, a truck driver got out of his rig and came up to me. He started the conversation casually, but basically wanted to know what I was doing.
I told the man that I was looking for the out of gas vehicle, but that obviously I was too late and someone else had come along to help.
"I've been sitting in this lot for a long time. That lady and that car were never here."
I hobbled home with a full gas can. At least the lawn-mower will have plenty of fuel for the rest of the season. I can't say that I was taken advantage of. I can't have the 'I feel good for helping" feeling. I'm just left questioning my own judgement.
Why didn't I get to know this girl more? Is it that I was not in a people mood, I was dealing with tying up my dog, I was listening to a podcast, I wasn't feeling physically or emotionally well? What I don't understand is why I didn't get more information. Where was that gut reaction that usually jumps up and says do or don't do this?
Over the past few weeks I've freely handed out cash to a few people. I've given away a lot of cigarettes, I put considerable time and energy into creating store content to help a single mom, and even donated money directly to her cause. I donated to Melony's car fund on GoFundMe, and donated a few bucks on a few other things.
The question that always comes to mind is whether I'm helping more by giving directly to an individual, or by giving to an organization, and I've come to the conclusion that I don't care. I would rather give directly to a person and receive their gratitude than give to an organization that spends 50% of it's income on administration and salaries.
I will be taken advantage of and swindled from time to time. I need to set a boundary for myself that only allows me to offer so much in terms of money, time, and energy as those are three things that I have precious little of. I know I've just stirred a pot and offered no resolution, but I think it's still worth thinking about.
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