Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Compassion for the "Needy"?

Haggard and worn, she approaches with tears in her eyes. She looks a bit strung out. The lined face, oily hair, dirty clothes, and bent posture scream years beyond her actual age of forty-four. "Please help me," she cries. Your heart goes out to her, and you desperately want to help. She looks back over her shoulder, acknowledging her friend, waiting in the old, rusty van. on the other end of a long, parking lot. The driver waits, with a quiet demeanor, and a rattling motor. She needs money to put gas in the van, and her boyfriend, who is mean, just kicked her out of her apartment, and she just needs some money. She pulls out her cell phone and nervously looks at it. It's a Sunday morning, and you're at church. You've just stepped outside to run to another building to make copies for a class you are teaching on "Giving. " Class is waiting, but this woman needs money or a ride to the other side of town. What should you do?

On a Tuesday afternoon, you step out of the church office, and a young man approaches you. He's round in the belly, with disheveled, greasy hair, and is unshaven. His yellow T-shirt hangs well over his shorts, and he's wearing sneakers. "Where are you goin'?" he asks. You say that you are going home and waiting for your wife and daughters to come pick you up. "Can you give me a ride?" he says. "My moped just broke down at the Food Lion and I've got this meat here that is going to thaw." The Food Lion is about a mile down the road. You ask where he needs a ride to. "I need a ride to the check-cashing place on the other side of town." You ask if his main concern is the meat that is going to thaw, or the ride to the check-cashing place? "I need a ride to the check-cashing place. Then I can cash my check and go home." You won't have room in your car, and you are weary of strangers--despite your desire to help them.

So, you ask if he would like to put his meat products in the church refrigerator, so he can walk to the check-cashing place. "No, man," he says. "I just need a ride to the check-cashing place." You advise that there is a bank down the street. Why not cash the check there? "No, man. I just need to go to this one place to cash the check. It's the only place in town that will cash my check." You are confused by that, but ask about the moped. "Yeah, man. That's why I need to get home so I can put my meat in the fridge so it don't spoil." You advise again that the church has a fridge for him to use, so he can not worry about his meat products. "No. I just need a ride to the check-cashing place." You are unable to give him a ride, but as you leave, you notice the young man, talking to the construction crew at the church, possibly explaining his story again. Should you have given this man a ride?

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