Today I realized, almost too late, that our personal property tax bill was due. If it wasn’t postmarked with today’s date, we would be assessed a 10% penalty. With an hour to spare before the post office closed, Elijah and I took off, on foot of course, for the post office. Catching and averting this potential issue was amazing in itself.
On the way to the post office, a lady stopped me and asked for money. I typically never carry cash, so it was easy to be truthful without feeling guilty. As I continued on my way, I realized that I did indeed have money from my coffee shop fund I withdrew from the bank the day before. I did feel guilty then.
I never know how to deal with people who ask for money. On one hand, we are instructed to help one another. There are plenty of references to helping the poor and the downcast through the Bible. On the other hand, I recall those 20/20-type undercover shows where panhandlers spend their days begging in rags then walk around the corner and jump into their Mercedes and drive off. (I know…I’m cynical. I’m working on that. ) Then you have those people who use the money for alcohol and/or drug. All of these things went through my mind.
In the end I decided if I saw her on the way back home I would give her $5. When I saw her, I had another idea. I would invite her to lunch and get to know her. There was a little dinner just a block away. I remember the story of my friend Michael (from Rise365.com) who one took a homeless man lunch and asked him his story. It was a great experience. Read about it here.
I also remembered Kyle’s story that has been circulating on the internet for years. It’s the story of a boy who because another boy befriended him didn’t go home from school on a Friday afternoon and carry out his planned suicide.
I walked along side the lady and asked her if she would be interested in joining Elijah and me for dinner. She paused and asked where. I told her there was a little dinner up the road. She asked for the name of it. I told her I couldn’t recall the name; I was new to town. She thought about it for a minute then said, “I think I’ll pass.”
I got a chance at another moment of inspiration just a few minutes later. A guy on a bike, who was clearly not in good shape, attempted to climb the hill near our house. He was really struggling. I joked with him and cheered him on as we went up the steep hill side by side.
Well, he did make it up. I congratulated him. As I continued on, I heard him say to someone on his porch, “I made it up without standing. You can ask that lady. She’ll tell you.” I smiled to myself…. Redeemed.
At the end of the day, I at least expressed to a panhandler that I cared about her even if it didn’t turn out how I expected. I cheered a guy up a hill. And… I paid our personal property tax bill on time and avoided a penalty. If I ever see that lady again, maybe I’ll try again to connect.