We Real Women were raised to believe in the importance in helping those who are less fortunate than ourselves. We are to help those in need, however we can, and we strive to instill this same belief in our children.
The paradox that is created, however, is that we also strive to teach our children to not talk to strangers. As we grow up from being little girls to young ladies to grown women, we know that we should never put ourselves in dangerous situations, to be leary of strangers who approach us.
So what are we to do if a person who is clearly in need approaches us? Do we hurry away to safety, or do we offer our assistance?
One of my R.W. friends shared a story of a recent encounter her mother-in-law had with someone asking for assistance. A fairly elderly woman, her mom-in-law was leaving a grocery store when a man approached her, asking for some change. She obliged, and in return the man offered to carry her groceries to her car. On the way to the car, he then asked her for a ride to the next town. This woman is a kind soul and believes in the good in people, and although most of us would never have agreed, she unfortunately did agree to give him a lift.
Upon reaching the destination, my friend’s mom-in-law was attacked and robbed. Thankfully, she put up enough of a fuss that the man ran away before causing her major injuries and “only” stealing her cash. But she is traumatized by the event, naturally. And scariest of all, it could have ended much differently.
Certainly, any of us hearing this story were likely feeling the “oh no” ick-factor as early as the man offering to carry the grocery bags to the car. Red flags were waving in our minds immediately, and for good reason. However, in this woman’s eyes, she thought she was doing a good thing. She was helping someone in need, someone less fortunate.
Ever since my friend shared this experience with me, I’ve been thinking about all of the times I’ve been approached, or have passed by, someone looking for a donation or a helping hand. Each time, I’ve relied on some sort of R.W. “Spidey Sense” to guide me as to whether or not to interact with the individual. I’ve often given what I could at the time… however, I will admit that there have been plenty of times that I’ve moved quickly away rather than make any sort of contact. And every time I’ve done that, I’ve felt a pang of guilt. Should I have helped? Was I a bad person for avoiding someone in need? Invariably I think about how easily I, or any of us, could be in the same position. How quickly any of us could become unemployed, or experience a devastating set back, and lose everything. What if that was me, stretching out a hand for help, and being ignored?
But….maybe I made the right choice… what if that person who tried to reach out to me was dangerous, unstable, and posed a real threat? What if, like the man my friend’s mom-in-law tried to help, was a desperate criminal, likely a drug addict, who was willing to hurt someone just to run off with $60?
The skeptical among us say “that person is only going to use that money to buy drugs or alcohol.” Sure, plenty of those in need are trying to support a drug habit…but what about those who are just looking for a warm meal for themselves or their children?
In the end, all we can really do is find ways to help in safe ways. We can volunteer at food pantries and soup kitchens. We can donate to church organizations, rescue missions and the Salvation Army. We can spare some change when in a safe environment. There is a man, clearly in need, who sits in his wheel chair at the entrance to my local grocery store, and seems to survive simply due to the kindness of strangers. From time to time I’ve given him a few dollars or a cold bottle of water on a hot day. He is non-threatening and appreciative. Although I will admit that if he was more able-bodied and approached me in a different environment, say an empty parking lot, I wouldn’t hesitate to get away from him as quickly as possible.
Sadly, there are so many out there who are far less fortunate than I. I’m lucky to have my health, a job, a loving family and a warm home – and I hope that I’m teaching my son to appreciate all that we have and to find appropriate ways to help others. But the bottom line is that we can’t help anyone if we don’t stay healthy and safe ourselves. We have to be careful first. Then give.