Instead, I'll share with you something I experienced while we were on Workation. One morning, we treated ourselves to breakfast at Cracker Barrel. We were on our way to Lowe's for supplies and thick, crispy bacon was calling my name. Parked beside the fireplace was a folded wheelchair. On the back of the wheelchair was a cardboard sign with magic marker writing. It said,
TRYING TO SURVIVE
DON'T SMOKE DON'T DRINK
When I first saw the sign, I actually stopped in my tracks to read it. I wanted to take a picture of it. Then I realized I was just standing in the middle of the restaurant so I picked up my pace and joined Hubby at the table. I immediately brought the wheelchair and the sign to his attention. His words matched my thoughts- "Well, how can they afford to eat at Cracker Barrel then?" We were both quite disgusted that these panhandlers didn't even try to hide the sign begging for money. They were too busy enjoying a fancy, expensive breakfast.
Then guilt washed over me. I was so quick to judge. Perhaps a caring stranger gave these folks a Cracker Barrel gift card in lieu of cash. I felt like a worm right then. My grandfather, a former pastor, always kept McDonald's gift certificates in his office. When a stranger would come into the church looking for a handout, my grandfather would give him the certificates. As a child, I once asked him why. He told me that if the person was truly hungry, this would feed him. It also assured that he wouldn't use good money to make bad purchases. This life lesson always stuck with me. I was sure that this is what had happened with the Cracker Barrel beggars.
I looked around the restaurant and quickly determined which people belonged to the wheelchair. It was a couple in their 40s wearing lots of layers. His hair was overgrown and he wore a beard. The woman looked severely depressed and was not well kept. The couple never spoke to one another. I imagined the pain they were suffering as I watched them eating biscuits from the corner of my eye.
I explained my epiphany to Hubby and expressed my guilt for judging too quickly. He did not agree with me, however. He was certain that the wheelchair and sign belonged to regular people who were out to make a buck off of the naive. "Well," I said, "I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt."
I continued to watch them from time to time, wondering if biscuits and coffee was going to be the staple of their meal. They probably ordered one side of bacon to split between them to make their gift card last as long as possible. I was wrong.
The server came out carrying a large tray full of plates. Do you want to guess what they ordered? Steak and eggs! Asking for handouts, eating steak for breakfast....I was floored. My guilt was replaced by anger. There are so many people in the world who sincerely need help. Then there are people like this who make it so that I won't trust anyone. I've always been leery of giving donations to people holding signs. Unfortunately, this is why. If these people were truly hungry, they wouldn't have splurged on such an expensive breakfast. I know I couldn't afford a breakfast like that.
What are your thoughts on this story? Which side of the fence would have you been on? And after seeing the steak and eggs, what would have you thought? I'm curious to see how others see this.