Jan 27 2009

Powerless

Last weekend, John, Cole, and I went to the closest larger town/city (which is about 1.5 hours away) to do our Costco, Target, and Trader Joe’s shopping. It’s a trip that we make maybe once every other month or so.

Understand that this town/city happens to be in one of the hardest-hit regions of California when it comes to job losses and foreclosures. But still, when that man approached me in the Target parking lot asking for money so that he and his wife and child, a girl- 8 years old- could get a hotel room for the night because he had lost his job and his home, well… I was caught totally off-guard.

I told him the truth, that I had no cash on me. Quite honestly- I had about 15 cents in my pocket and maybe another quarter in the car, and I sincerely doubted that would help him any. I’m sure he didn’t believe me, but he didn’t press and he walked off across the parking lot with another target in sight.

I looked at what I had just purchased in Target- some nursing bras, a couple of replacement bowls (why are we constantly breaking bowls?!), two cheap but adorable baby sleepers, a packet of Obama trading cards (a silly, “can you believe this product exists?” gift for my husband), and a packet of Raisinets as a very special treat for Cole- and felt frivolous and silly. And then I gave my son an extra-big hug and breathed in the smell of his baby neck while trying not to cry.

There was nothing I felt like I could do. I cuoldn’t give this man my credit card and tell him to send it back when he was done. I don’t know the area well enough to have been able to suggest a good shelter or some other organization that could help. I felt powerless.

But I want to know what you think. Is there something I could have done that I don’t see? What would you have done?

5 Comments

  • By Sizzle, January 27, 2009 @ 11:08 am

    I don’t what you can do short of going to a bank, taking out cash and seeking the person out. I want to believe those people who tell me such stories in parking lots but there is a part of me that wonders. Most of the time I give away food instead of cash and donate directly to charities.

  • By nrp, January 27, 2009 @ 5:36 pm

    Ah gee, Dani, it’s one I wish I didn’t have to struggle with either. You know how it is around where I live…lots of “spare some pot for mah dooog?”, but plenty of people in real need too.

    I try to model compassion for my own children (who have pointed out, on seeing someone with a sign at the side of the road, that we have a spare bedroom, we could invite people with no home to stay with us) and to model the message that we are blessed enough that we can share with others. This doesn’t always translate as going to the ATM to get some cash–though I’ve been known to do that (and John has a policy of giving twice what he thinks he can afford…).

  • By NGS, January 27, 2009 @ 7:24 pm

    I don’t know. I actually had a similar situation in the grocery store parking lot when it was about ten degrees below zero. I gave some clearly homeless guy my last $5 and struggled with guilt all night long. When my husband asked what was wrong, I really couldn’t explain. I probably would have given him the spare change, but beyond that? Pay your taxes. Be nice to people. It’s the conclusion I came to.

  • By HeatherPride, January 29, 2009 @ 1:59 pm

    You know, that scenario is actually plausible in this economy. I don’t know what else you could have done. If it were me, I might have offered to make a phone call for him? But that’s because I’m sitting here at my desk with time to think about it, not standing on my feet being confronted directly and unexpectedly. It just sucks. That would really ruin my day, too.

  • By Elizabeth, January 30, 2009 @ 9:09 am

    You give when you can, and be truly thankful for everything you have when you can’t.

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