Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A Missed Opportunity or Avoiding a Dangerous One?

Recently I was at church with my family and my son and I stayed to see The Fiddler on the Roof performance afterwards.  My husband is not a theater buff so he opted to go home.  We were at the Saturday Mass and were chatting with friends inside for a bit before we stepped out to go through the parking lot over to the gym where the show would be performed.

No one was in the dark parking lot when we came out besides a young woman holding a sign asking for money.  As we walked past her I noticed her sign and slowed down perplexed why she was in this parking lot.  She said nothing but simply stared at me.  My son whispered to me "What is she doing?"  He has never noticed someone begging for money before so I quickly and quietly told him.  I asked her if she went to this church even though she didn't look familiar and she said no.  I asked her if she lived in our town and she said no.

My mind flooded with thoughts and time slowed down...

...if I open my purse to give her money, will she try and grab it and run? this a scam with someone else hiding behind another car waiting to jump out and steal my purse? she truly in need and I should give her money? she a mentally ill woman who has gone off her medication and is trying to survive by begging? she dangerous?
...would Jesus want me to help her?
...why do I feel very uncomfortable?  unsafe?

In the end, I told her I was sorry I couldn't help her and we walked on.  The money I did have was going to pay for the tickets and the dinner for our church's fundraiser.  My son was upset with me saying I should have helped her and given her something.  Instead, once we went inside the building we stopped and offered up a prayer for her.  I looked back out the window and she was gone.

Did I miss an opportunity to put into practive the virtue of charity and help her?  By walking by her and not helping, did I miss an opportunity in seeing Jesus within her?  Am I just like the priest and the levite from the Good Samaritan Bible Story?  Should I have been the Good Samaritan?  Why did I feel so unsettled and nervous about our encounter?  Did I save my son and I from being harmed in some way? 

I'll never know what her true intention was but it haunted me for awhile and all I contined to offer up prayers for her.


  1. Oh, that happens quite often. There is a couple that stands at a certain intersection in town with signs "Homeless Please Help" The children and I have given them food, but clearly the woman wanted money, the man took the food (I think it was pretzels) I never have cash on me, but almost always have snacks (for the kiddos). We always pray for them.

    You did what you could in the situation. We've been approached in parking lots twice now-- once by a young boy stating that his "aunt" drove him up from the cities and now they are completely out of gas and money--the other time by a boy and his father saying their car is "over there" and they drove up from the cities and are completely out of gas and money. Both times, I told him I would buy them some gas, they insisted that I not do that, they only needed the money and they would go get it.

    We prayed for them.
    As long as you prayed for them, all is good.

  2. Hi Noreen! Thank you for stopping by my blog earlier. I have been out all day and have just seen your message.

    I think we have all been in your situation, Noreen. It is a sad fact of our society that we can't trust everyone. Should we be prudent? I really don't know. If it hadn't been dark, if you'd been surrounded by friends, if you'd had some spare money on you... maybe your decision would have been different. We all make decisions and then wonder if they were the right ones, especially when our children are questioning us too.

    In some ways I think God would rather us try and help others even if we suspect fraud. It's a bit like being nice to someone when we know they won't appreciate our efforts. Sometimes conversion can come when a person is treated with kindness regardless of whether they deserve anything. Perhaps this is the way a saint would act. But I am not a saint and often I persuade myself it is not prudent to help because I don't want to appear to be a fool. (God wouldn't think us foolish, would He?)

    I think I would have been reacted just like you because of the conditions. Also like you, I think I wouldn't have been able to stop thinking about it later. You care very much, Noreen. If you didn't you'd have soon forgotten the encounter. Caring can be most unsettling sometimes!

    God can put everything right if we ask Him. I know you are praying, so perhaps place it all in His hands and be peaceful about it? These are only some rambling thoughts, Noreen. I don't think I have been much help here but thank you for asking me to share. And may God bless you!

  3. Thank you Jamie Jo and Sue for your insight. I strive to be Christ-centered but in this situation, the safety factor prevailed.

  4. It's so hard to know how or when to respond in these situations. I've done both -- offered food, and offered cash. But we do risk our safety when we choose to help. sometimes it is better not to when our children are with us, if we have a gut feeling that there could be danger.

  5. We've been in that situation too many times. I now just carry a zip lock bags filled with a blanket, bottle of water,food bars, chocolate etc and whenever we go out we take one with us 'just in case' and the kids are always happy to look out for anyone they think may need one.