Saturday, May 7, 2011

Begging, and The Power of Discernment

Where to begin.

Ever since being here in Roswell, I have come to notice that nearly every time I go to a store, I encounter someone asking for money.  Sometimes, it is someone who looks like the world chewed them up and spit them back out, leaving them with a sign, and usually a dog.  Other times, they look, not quite so harassed, but definitely lacking.  And sometimes these people are passively sitting on the side of the road, or walking around the store parking lot.

Picture Source
When do you know that these people are the real deal?  Personally, I don't like to be tricked into giving someone money who doesn't really need it.

North of town, by the Wal-Mart and Sam's Club, is where you typically see the beggars with their signs, sitting and hoping for someone to help them.  If find it interesting, that there is an frequenter there.  I've seen him many times over the last year.  He always looks the same, but I can't help but wonder, "Is he the real deal?"

What Would You Do? video clip.

 I have three examples from my experiences that I want to share:

1.  When we were first in Roswell, Hoss got a second full-time job at a Sprint dealer.  He worked long hours, and was often unable to leave on time (we had one car at the time).  One long wait of nearly one hour, I sat and watched one beggar.  He had approached me when I first pulled up, but once he realized that I didn't have any spare change (I almost never carry cash anymore), he left me alone, but stayed in the area.  I watched as he flagged cars down, asked for money, and collected.  About 45 minutes into my wait, I watched as he pulled out a cell phone and began talking into it.  He then proceeded to a fairly nice car, in which he got into and drove away.  Fraud?  Or did he just hit a rough patch in his life?  Either could be very possible, but my judgement leans toward fraud... partly because as he was walking past my car, I gave him a quizzical look, and he merely laughed heartily and continued on his way.

2.  This encounter happened just a few days ago.  I went to Albertson's to get some ice cream, and some change for Big T's and Little H's field trip to the movie theater next week.  As I was walking to my car, a woman sidled up to me.  Once she had my attention, she began her rapid speech of having kids at home alone (out of town I might add) with no gas to get there.  She was determined to sell me anything... her watch, her ????.... I don't know what else she said, because it was a slur of words.  She was teetering, and she could not focus.  I've been around enough to see when someone is intoxicated, and that she was.  My 'spidy senses' told me "No!  Do not give this woman money!"  So I politely told her that I did not have spare change (which I did not, remember, the cash was for T and H).  She grumbled and walked off.

3.  This is the encounter that prompted this whole post.  Today, after getting a snow cone for T and H, a man came up to me as I was getting ready to leave.  He asked me if I could get him some food.  He was meek, like this was his last resort.  He didn't have a long flashy tale to share with me about how and why he got to where he is.  He was hungry, and he asked.  I did not know what to say.  Due to most of my experiences, I am kind of skeptical.  My internal thoughts went from, "Well, I'm not going to buy him food from a restaurant... I don't have money for that, to I could take him to the grocery store and buy him some food."  However, I found myself ignoring the prompting to help this man.  I, like most people, do not like being put on the spot, and I felt rushed about making such a split second decision.  We have a tight budget.. down to the penny, and plus, I would need to check with Hoss first... I do this before purchasing anything.  So what did I do?  I said no.

Now, before you start thinking that I am a stingy person, please, keep reading.  At this point in the evening, Baby K was hungry and screaming his head off in the van.  But I could hardly hear him.  The only thing that I could hear was the silence within, and the scripture, "For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger and ye took me in: [...] Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matt 25: 35, 40)."  I called Hoss at work as I began to turn around.  It took everything I had not to break down on him over the phone.  I explained what happened, and that I had made the wrong choice.  I mentioned that I was going to go back and buy him some food... like I should have.

It took me no more than ten minutes to get back to where he was.  I drove all around, and up the street.  I even looked in the restaurant that was next to the sno cone shack.  He was no where to be found.  I dejectedly drove back home, close to tears for failing as a disciple of Christ.

My lesson?  Never ignore the promptings of the Holy Ghost.  I do not feel bad for denying the first two examples of money, but this one, leaves me feeling the need to repent.

PS for the most recent episode of Sora"s Journey click here.

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