Truth or Spare (Some Change?)

First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms.
~ Kristin Hunter

The other evening, my husband and I were at a strip mall in the suburbs picking up some groceries when we stepped out of the store to a man sitting anxiously on a bench. He stood up and came towards us to ask us for help. Apparently, his car was parked in the lot with no gas, he had left his wallet at work, and his wife wasn't going to be able to come get him for a couple of hours. He said he was completely embarrassed by the situation, but asked us for a couple of dollars so he could get a small can of gas.

His story was pretty elaborate, and we were a bit skeptical, but deep down, I really wanted to believe him. After all, we were in the suburbs. So I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I only had a few dollars in my wallet, but I handed him what I had, and he was very thankful. He grabbed his jacket and started towards the gas station, and we parted ways.

As we walked into another store, his story stuck with me, and I wondered if it was really true. I am an eternal believer in the goodness and honesty of people. I want to believe that people are truthful, kind, and honest. I struggle with this, but somewhere deep down, I hope that, given the opportunity, people will choose the side of good. I figured I would never know the truth behind the story, but I still wondered.

When we stepped out of the store and walked to our car, there he was, back at the bench, head in his hands, looking just as dejected as before. I felt duped. But I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I thought maybe the money I had given him wasn't enough. But then again, maybe he had lied. That's when it dawned on me:

It didn't matter.
I didn't care.

If he was lying, I thought of what a bad place he must be in to have to lie.

In the end, his story didn't matter. Because if we judge the story, we decide whose struggle is worthy of our help, when in fact, our opinion is inconsequential. So what if he got a couple of dollars off me. I am so lucky to have a couple of dollars to spare. So what if the homeless person grabs a beer over a meal with the money I give him. What he does with his money is his business.

We should provide help because we want to, and be thankful that we can. 

We didn't approach the man again. If he had come to this place with this story, he must be in a trying place. He must have really needed the money. And it didn't matter what for.

As we drove away, I felt thankful. For all that I have in my life. For having faith in people. For being able to help someone in a hard time. I know I had done the right thing. I had helped my fellow human.

I am thankful I'm on my two feet.

And the best thing I did that day was to reach out my arms.

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