In nearly every city you’ll find someone with a sign asking for help. Whether on the sidewalk in New York City or right off the interstate exit in Dayton, Ohio, you will find someone down on their luck and asking for your generosity in the form of cash. As you approach these individuals there are generally three trains of thought
1. I’ll give them a little something
2. I’d give them something, but I’m not carrying any cash.
3. I won’t give them anything because they’re just going to buy drugs or alcohol. Get a job!
Yesterday my assistant came into the office to grab her purse. “There’s a guy in the foyer asking for money to buy a bus ticket. He seems like a nice guy so I’m gonna help him out” she explained. It was probably better that she didn’t see me smirking and shaking my head in my office; questions running through my head that could shut down the validity of his need.
Is she a better person than I am? Have I watched too many Dateline specials about millionaire beggars to trust those in need? Have I seen first hand too many people coming to pick up their free Christmas presents donated by the youth group wearing $150 Lebron James shoes? My generosity seems endless for organized functions: Red Cross, World Vision, Churches, etc., but when it comes to an individual I seem to lose all compassion. “They brought this on themselves” is often my thought.
I was confronted with the fact on my way home the same day. I had stopped at the department store to return some items. On my way in I heard a lady asking others in the parking lot if they had jumper cables. I headed on in hoping that someone would help them before I got out. But sure enough on my way out she was standing in front of me asking. “Sure” I said reluctantly. I really didn’t feel like it, but I wasn’t going to lie. I pulled around and with her husband’s help got the car started. Before I could get the cables off the battery she was there giving me a hug. “God bless you”, she kept saying.
I got in the car baffled by the irony of my day. At no point during the entire process did I want to help them. I was in a bad mood with a cold and being a good Samaritan wasn’t what I felt like doing. And it’s unsettling to me.
Is helping others something that comes natural? Is it a learned trait? How do you overcome the skepticism of knowing that so many people take advantage of you because they can?