Saturday, April 17, 2010


Today while I was shopping in Walgreen's, a man came up to me. He was dressed in clean clothes - jeans and a t-shirt. He was probably in his 30's. He started talking to me, but most of his conversation was unintelligible. About the only words I really understood were "grandmother", "need money", and "help." I sort of surmised that he wanted me to give him some money for his grandmother.

I told him I couldn't help him today. It's not that I haven't given money before to strangers who have asked me in the past. Once I even gave a gas gift card that had a little bit of money still on it. This was to a man driving around the Home Depot parking lot, asking people for cash to buy gas to go see his grandmother/take his wife to the hospital/go to the grocery store to get food. He wasn't as pleased with the gas card since he wanted cash, but that's another story.

Anyhow, today I just didn't feel the urge to give money to this man. It wasn't because of his speech impediment. It wasn't because of his race. It wasn't because I didn't understand and wasn't convinced of the story he told. I didn't give him money because it just didn't feel right.

I thought a lot about him as I finished my shopping, paid for my purchases (and listened as the man asked the clerk at the register for money), and went to my car. I wondered if I should have given him the $2 in change I received at the register. I wondered if there indeed was a grandmother and if she did need help. I wondered why he was in Walgreen's asking for money. I wondered if I did the right thing, and I wondered if I refused to give him money because I was judging him.

But in the end, I decided that I had done the right thing. Maybe it was a judgement call - not about the man, but about whether or not I should have given him money. Maybe it was realizing that I don't have to give money to anyone who asks - just the ones to whom I feel drawn to help. That draw won't be what they look like or the validity of their story. It will be that God-given feeling that this is the person I'm supposed to help in that moment. Today wasn't that moment.

I don't know if the man got money or not. But I was able to let him go and not agonize over him and his grandmother. Maybe today wasn't about him, but more about me. Maybe it was about knowing when and who to help. Maybe it was about being a little more discerning and invested when asked - to see if I'm the one to help. Maybe it was about not avoiding something by quickly dispensing some coins, but instead looking at someone and deciding if it's my day to help.

Maybe it is judgement - but at least I'll know that I made the right decision.
Things that make today great: Costco-ing and Target-ing with Steve; overeating at JAlex with Maribeth, Sam, Lynnette, and Lindley; chatting with Molly at the Doik

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