Swindler’s List, Part Two

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?

More than just good looks… that’s my hubby.

More than just good looks… that’s my hubby.

11 responses to “Swindler’s List, Part Two

  1. Thanks for this example of creative good-deedery, Lisa! Clearly, Ian is handsome, generous AND clever!!

  2. You won’t catch any argument from me… wait, is my bias showing?

  3. What quick thinking on Ian’s part! I have gone in to get food or coffee for someone on the street, but I’m not sure I would have come up with that solution that quickly. Good for Ian, and thank you for sharing that wonderful good deed!

  4. Thank you, Christine! I’m sure you’d have been just as clever, but many people do tend to become more resourceful once they have a disability.

  5. Thanks Lisa, it’s good to read something that comes from a different perspective that most of us haven’t considered. I give your hubby a 10 for creativity. Let’s face it…..for most, it’s easier to say “No”.

  6. You bet, Scott! Even for me, with my fully working arms, I’m nervous about riffling through my wallet on the city streets in front of strangers. I often carry around granola bars, and I’ve handed them out on numerous occasions when I’ve been asked for money or food.

  7. I would be interested to read what people think of these two schools of thought:
    1) Is it better to make consistent contributions to existing organizations that deal with issues affecting low income individuals and single income families?

    2) Are we not just enabling individuals by giving them a “hand out” instead of providing them with what they really need: “a hand up”.

  8. I guess the answers are not so straightforward. For sure, it’s important to support (whether financially or otherwise) organizations that help solve some of these core social problems. But it’s probably also important to recognize that not all marginalized citizens will have the opportunities, the freedom, the mental or physical health, etc., to be able to avail themselves of those services (assuming these social supports are sufficiently funded enough to be there for everyone, which of course they aren’t), and maybe what they really need in that one critical moment is a sandwich and a caring smile. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a hand up as much as a handout. My thoughts, anyway!

    • I would agree with your points of view. I believe it’s about balance. There are those in immediate need and others who have longer term needs. At this point I’m wondering if it’s worth while carrying some cards with a list of organizations that work in the area, so when the time comes I can provide a sandwich as well as some contact info that they may have not known about previously. Just typing out loud here :-)……Thanks for the post.

  9. Linda Ruth Ciglen

    I’ve even taken “orders” on the street from people who’ve asked me for money (“You’re hungry? I’ll be glad to buy you some food. What kind of sandwich do you like? How do you take your coffee?”) to be sure I’m getting them something they’ll actually eat. However, my friend Nancy had the experience of seeing someone whom she helped in this way take the burger she’d just bought him back to McDonald’s for a refund! There are no easy answers or sure-fire ways to help … but we do what we can with what’s (or who’s) in front of us.

  10. An intriguing idea, Scott! Thanks for typing out loud.

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