Stories from My Past: I’m hungry do you have any money?
If you are white and travel to another country, you will get approached for money. As a white guy who traveled to Mexico, I was regularly approached for money by all types of people. Most of the time I didn’t give money, or put myself in situations where that was an issue. However sometimes you have a situation forced on you and you have to deal with it.
I was sitting down in the middle of the street eating with the other people in the celebration. It was very crowded but of course my whiteness always seems to stand out. Out of nowhere a kid who looks dirty, torn clothing and skinny approached me and my friend. She said “I’m hungry do you have any money?” This girl was probably 7 at most and I realized she was being used but what can I say? I said “Sure, sit down and let me buy you something.” She sat down and I got her a burrito which is my favorite but she hardly touched it. She kept looking past people and I realized that she was probably pressured to leave. I said “You can take the food and go.” and she quickly did.
Now doing the kind thing is not always so clear. By giving her food she did not eat, did I help her or her family? But what if she had been telling the truth and I did not help her. There is no story of the good Samaritan being cat-fished with a person who was faking needing help. Many, many times I have been presented with manipulative situations of people who were looking to get money from me and I do not give to those who manipulate others. There are always ways to get help in industrial countries like the US or Mexico, even if they are not always easy. Even growing up in a rural town, there are churches and other institutions who give food/help to families struggling.
Another example. One time I was walking in a parking lot and a homeless man walked in front of me on purpose when there was plenty of space to avoid me. He was holding a sign and when he bumped into me, he exaggerated fell to the floor. I continued to walk to my destination. Was I being a jerk? Did I create the situation? Did I have an ulterior motive? I did not. I am kind, but I am not stupid. You don’t help those who abuse the generosity of others.
Another example. I stopped at a light and a homeless guy started washing my friend’s car window without asking. My window was rolled down and I told him to stop. I said I am not paying you. You do not do work for someone and expect a payment. This is as manipulative as the guys at the airport who give a flower and then ask for a donation. If your “gift” is to create a sense of indebtedness, then it is not a gift but a manipulative ploy. I will not be manipulated into kindness. Kindness is when out of the generosity of spirit you give because you connect with someone. A “forced” connection will never help to help those in need.
Am I being a jerk? Perhaps. However there are times when generosity is not the right choice, and no is the best answer.