Mood: irritated, incredulous, pensive, confused, frustrated, probably in need of correction, cynical
Let me start by saying this: it was just four dollars.
I was practically robbed today, pick pocketed. A gentleman came into the shop this evening, looking a mite scraggly and in patchy attire, saying “merry Christmas-new year-happy…” He seemed a little disoriented, but friendly. He told Delia, “I’m homeless, you know. you pray for me, and I’ll pray for you.” Delia, being her sweet self, responded “of course I’ll pray for you! Would you like some coffee?” The man said yes and proceeded to ask us if we could give him a few bucks, because he needed soap and water. I said he was welcome to use our bathroom, and he said he needed a bath. I gave him a dollar, and he asked Delia for one, but she said she didn’t have any money. He stood at the counter drinking his coffee, and asked if we could “please please please” give him five dollars. I explained I didn’t have more cash to give him, and he said, “well what if I put this dollar in here [the tip jar] and take out this five-dollar bill…” He proceeded to do just that, despite my telling him “no, that’s not okay.” Delia explained that we had to split the tips but the man persisted in taking our money, and Delia said, “okay, you have to leave.”
This has happened before, just never when I was around. It was a really incredible experience, one that left me rattled and I had to sit down because of the pit in my stomach.
You talk about cognitive dissonance.
Here’s a man who is probably treated the same everywhere he goes: people are suspicious, they keep one eye open. He’s a little less than human in most people’s eyes: he’s a homeless guy. People don’t trust him. People think he’s out to take advantage of them. People are tired of his type [the homeless] always asking for things and money.
But as a human being, you want to give him the benefit of the doubt. You want to assume that if you give him a dollar, he’ll accept it gracefully and gratefully, and not try to milk you for all you’re worth. You’d like to think that he is just down on his luck and he didn’t get where he was today by choice, but by hard circumstance and horrible luck.
So you give him the benefit of the doubt, and what happens? He breaks your trust by taking money.
Like I said, it was only four dollars. I still got to eat tonight. I get it. But what makes it different is that he took OUR money, because the tip jar is split between the two of us working. It’s the fact that he just pushed his luck and not only bummed a cup of coffee and a dollar from me, but took my friend’s money too. Maybe that’s what’s eating me up, I’m not sure.
I also try to keep in mind when Jesus said “whatever you do to the least of these, you do to Me.” Again, I get it. And there would be a million humanitarian Christians in the world who try to tell me I should happily give him money because I’m basically giving Jesus money.
But here’s what makes this situation unique: if Jesus were a homeless man, He would [i think] take my dollar, thank me, and hopefully leave me wishing I’d given Him more because He was so grateful and genuine.
But what enrages me most about the situation is not that I gave money [whether voluntarily or not] to a homeless guy, it’s that I gave it to a swindler. It’s that I gave him the benefit of the doubt and he betrayed my trust. I hate that now we have to keep an eye out for him and “his kind” (less the homeless and more the type who come in and ask for money) and while I’m at it, how in the world is it okay to just ask people for their money? At what point did that become acceptable? Why can’t I fathom walking into a coffee shop and asking people for money without any intent of returning it? Maybe it’s because I have something to lose and some of the people who do this kind of thing have nothing left to lose. I don’t know and I don’t claim to.
and Jesus never said I wouldn’t be taken advantage of. It just leaves my head spinning how someone thinks it’s okay to exploit their circumstance and take money from others. I’m less mad than I am confused and I have so many questions. At best, Jesus is happy because I gave Him some money tonight. At worst, I’m out a few bucks to a guy who won’t be allowed back in the shop.