On Tuesday, I wrote about handing over cash or goods even as you suspect you’re being conned. A lively discussed ensued. In the end we all seemed to agree that sometimes, hoax or not, you just help.
So let me ask you this: Do you still do the good deed when it puts your personal safety at risk? I don’t necessarily mean those moments when you’re fueled by adrenalin, like hauling a stranger out of a burning car. But what about those shady dealings when you not only are fairly sure you’ll never see your money again, but could also be harmed as you lend a hand?
Last weekend, hubby went downtown for a haircut. As many of you know, the man in my life happens to be quadriplegic. It doesn’t stop him from committing acts of kindness. But it does mean he considers the danger of a situation perhaps a little more speculatively than someone with full power in his biceps.
As Ian wheeled to his parked van after his barbershop appointment (house rule: I am prohibited from referring to it as “the hairdresser”) a raggedy man approached him. And proceeded to greet him like an old friend. “How’re you doing? I haven’t seen you for ages! Remember me from the Greek restaurant? What do you mean, which Greek restaurant? You know, the one by the bus station!” and so forth. Then the guy got to the point. He hadn’t eaten all day. He was in need of a spot of cash – twenty dollars would surely do it – and, of course, he’d pay my hubby back.
Problem is, if my husband pulls out his bills, he can’t stop someone, not even a skinny guy weak with hunger, from snatching all his money. He can’t chase a thief down the street. Once he deploys the automatic ramp to his wheelchair van, he can’t prevent someone from following him inside the vehicle. He can’t jump in ahead, lock the doors and drive away. All these thoughts go through his mind when he’s pestered by a persistent stranger.
Unwilling to take out his cash on the sidewalk, my husband made a quick decision. “I’ll come back,” he promised, and entered a nearby convenience store. There, he picked out what he hoped was a suitable lunch – the guy was missing teeth, so Ian thoughtfully chose a soft chicken wrap over a crusty sandwich – and asked the clerk to put the change from his twenty into the bag. He came out and handed it over.
The guy wasn’t exactly turning cartwheels over the free food, but he didn’t turn it down either. Especially after Ian told him there was money in there, too. He thanked him and walked away, slowly, down the street. From the corner Ian watched for a moment, saw the man peer into the bag, hoped he wouldn’t take out the lunch and toss it. But then he turned away, figuring he ought to give the man his dignity.
A sensible solution to a potentially unsafe situation, don’t you think? Have you ever taken risks to be generous?