“If I had a cent for every time I’ve been taken for a ride I’d be a millionaire,”
Those were my exact words as I shut the door and peered out the window at a dismal figure retreating down my front driveway. As if to reinforce my decision several dogs broke into a chorus of barking as the woman reached the gate.
I recollected some of the more notable events which helped me arrive at this conviction. When Georgine and I first arrived in the orient our meager monthly salary vanished as seemingly desperate people appeared at the door with surprising regularity. They all had heartbreaking stories to relate.
There were women who’d supposedly been abandoned, men who claimed to have been robbed on trains, families who claimed they’d no place to go. Each story was sympathetically received and resulted in a donation. It did seem strange though that these terrible events seemed to recur on a frequent basis to the same people. We were often in desperate circumstances ourselves in those early years because of our open ended giving, and our attitude was largely motivated by the poverty we saw around us and a realization we were much better off than those at our door.
After a while we began to realize those who were advising us to be more prudent in our giving weren’t necessarily hard hearted. They knew more about the society we’d adopted than we did. Our Deshi neighbors patiently sought to instruct us in the art of discretionary giving. We needed to be more careful about where our limited resources were placed. They should not be wasted on confidence tricksters!
So I began to make more careful enquiries about our regular seeming unfortunate visitors. “Crazy Charlie” was not as crazy as it appeared, the man with the grotesque malformed arms could make them go back to normal if he wished, and the lady with the elephant face preferred to be outside a hospital because she made a mint out of tourists. Our world crashed with this discovery and I determined never to be caught out again by these charlatans.
While I was mulling such thoughts over in my mind a troubled young daughter entered the room. She wanted to know why the woman retreating down the path was sobbing, and what I’d done to cause her grief. Doubts appeared! Could this be a genuine case I’d callously turned aside, and what about the higher ethical standards we claimed to live by?
With a sigh I went to the hidden drawer and removed some of our precious monthly living allowance. The woman had said she needed a train ticket, and it would be better to take a chance than risk injustice. I rushed down the road and handed her money sufficient for her ticket and some extra to help her survive the train journey.
Later, a letter of appreciation revealed this had been a genuine case after all. How glad I was I’d heeded the golden rule rather than let bad experiences of the past dictate my treatment of a woman in need.
Of course I still respect the advice of my neighbors of that time. Not everyone who comes to the door with a hard luck story has genuine need and we’ve a responsibility to our family to protect our resources from such people. Check to see your gifts go to those with a genuine need.
Trust is something people have to demonstrate they’re worthy of, but occasionally you may have to take a chance and hope claims of need by that person at the door are genuine.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2012 All rights reserved”