I’d just come out of a store where I’d been shopping for an inexpensive sheet for a gift I’m making. I went there because the fabric I’d just purchased at the fabric store was expensive, but I’d talked myself into it because the recipient of the gift will be so grateful and I think truly cherish the gift. I just wanted to be sure there wasn’t a better deal. I want to stretch my dollar. I’d worked the couponing like a champ at the fabric store, and trust me, it’s still an expensive project.
I caught a glimpse of a man who looked to be in his early twenties carrying a couple of plastic grocery bags and spiral bound notebooks. He seemed to be trying to get someone’s attention and I hoped it wasn’t mine. I still had another errand to run before calling it a day. I ducked behind a pillar and changed my trajectory just a bit to avoid walking his direction. I was tired and had a lot on my mind. Turned out it was me he was trying to speak to.
“Excuse me!” he said. I stopped, turned to him and asked, “Yes?” He came closer and launched into his pitch. Judging by his appearance, belongings and hearing bits of the words coming out of his mouth, I concluded he was down on his luck and either was working with one of those programs where he tries to sell me magazines and get my signature to prove to his boss that he spoke to x number of people in order to get credit and earn his money for the day (have they come to your door, too?) , or he was just begging for money. I stared at the spiral bound books hoping it was the former. I didn’t want any magazines, that was easy for me to decline, and I could still help with my signature. But I couldn’t make out what he was saying. He was kind of mumbling, but I was all in my own head trying to get out of giving him any money. I leaned in for clarification.
“I’m sorry, what is it your asking for? Money?” I asked.
“Yes, you see I just came from a job interview……I promise they are going to hire me, they want to and I just need……”
Exhale. He was asking me for money.
There are so many dishonest people anymore who ask for money, I’m at a point now as a forty something, of all the many times and ways I’ve been approached, that I don’t even want to hear your stories, people. I just feel such conflict, I don’t even care. The story means nothing to me and has no ability to persuade me to give anymore. The last time I gave, a man approached me in a parking lot, he looked a wreck and started on the story after asking for some change, I interrupted him and said, “I don’t need to hear it, here you go, sir,” smiled and walked away. He kind of chuckled when I stopped him and waited in awkward silence while I dug up all the loose change from my zippered wallet. It was almost a silent agreement- say nothing, I’ll give you something, neither of us is happy about this situation. You don’t want to be needing to ask, but you need to for whatever multiplicity of reasons. I obviously can afford to come to the store and buy food, so I surely have enough to spare for you, right?
My mother taught me as a young girl when I asked her how do we know who to give to, and how we could give to everyone who asked, that you follow the Holy Spirit. She said, “I feel for a certain feeling like the Holy Spirit and believe it will direct me as to who really needs my help. When I don’t get that certain feeling, I just decline and say a prayer for them. You can say a prayer when you don’t know what to do.”
That’s how I’ve lived. I’ve had times that I have given a lot, and times when I had no inclining impression and instead smile, decline, apologize and offer a prayer for that individual’s situation. Every year 10% of my income I donate to my church. Through them many countless good things are provided for relief of different kinds all over the world. But not all of it goes for feeding the hungry. It goes to providing resources to build chapels and temples in cash, it goes to help provide college tuition for people outside of the USA who will take their education back into their communities and help provide for the next student, as well as build their home areas. It goes to help pay costs for full time missionaries who don’t have all the funds they need to go forth and serve to name a just a few. Almost every month I donate to a special fund that is specifically for providing food for our local poor. It can even help them keep a roof over their head or electricity and water on in their time of struggle. Not only have I shared my income for this, but I’ve volunteered at the facilities to package and deliver the food. I’ve been on both the giving and receiving end over my lifetime. I know it’s hard to be on the receiving end.
So here I was facing this man and I wasn’t happy. I didn’t want to give. Then the verses started in my head,
“And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” Matthew 5:40.
“And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.” Mosiah 4:16
These and more played in my head and I just wanted to sit down on the curb and think. I waived a hand to stop him from explaining further as I opened my purse and started digging, but he insisted on promising me he wouldn’t use it to buy alcohol or drugs. I really did not care what he did with it.
What I cared about is my money. I had just shopped so carefully to make my money stretch and now I was supposed to just hand it over to this guy because he asked. I didn’t want to. I knew it was what Jesus would have me do, but I didn’t want too and I was mad. In my wallet and saw ones and fives, the last of the weekly grocery and pizza money. Great, I had small bills, maybe this wouldn’t be that big of a deal. But you know what? My husband was still out of town having worked 30 consecutive days with 1 day off to provide for us. I have experienced a significant loss of income in what I do to earn money. I recently reinvested in my business education and had worked through my anxiety to book more appointment to sell products and earn the money we needed. Why should I hand it over to him? We were doing our part, where was this man’s part?
I fumbled over the bills. I grabbed 4 one dollar bills and thought:
“For I was an hungered, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink. I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” Matthew 25:42-45.
I asked myself, “If this was Jesus in front of me, would I give $4 or $5?” I grabbed the $5 bill and held it out to him, making no eye contact. “Here,” I said.
“Thank you,” he replied, “God bless you.”
“Yes, please God, bless me,” I whispered and hurried away crying.
I cried because I was mad that I should give that money when I wanted it for bills or my own fun.
I cried because I was a resentful, selfish giver. Then I remembered, “For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.” Moroni 7:8.
Then I cried because I just gave for nothing! So I tried to dry up my tears and change my mindset so it would count for something good (again for myself). Why let that five bucks go to waste giving it grudgingly? I had to snap out of this.
Then I thought about the church southwest regional conference we had just yesterday, where leaders spoke about the hurricane victims and how wonderfully people had given and worked selflessly. They encouraged us and pleaded with us to be loving and generous to others. They asked us to be a little kinder and less judgmental. They talked about the parable of the Good Samaritan.
I knew I’d done the right thing, but I cried because my attitude was all wrong. When will I really, truly be more willing and happy to give like Jesus Christ?
The only consolation I had for myself was that perhaps I was an answer to this man’s prayers. I have no idea what his story is, but I know he, too, is a child of God.
As I drove home, all I could do was wonder why I’m happy to give on my terms when I feel like it, yet am put out and stingy with my resources when it’s not convenient or my idea?
I hope that man’s blessing on me comes true. I need God’s help with my selfishness. Even though I give, my heart is not full of charity yet. It’s still kinda full of myself. 😦
I’m a work in progress. It’s a process, and I’m still in it.
To be continued…..