~my thoughts about life~

Monday, October 10, 2011

Benefit of the Doubt

I'm so far behind right now.  I planned on blogging about the many, many things we accomplished in the past week but don't have sufficient pictures yet to illustrate my words.  I have such a fun and interesting evening planned tonight...I'll have to tell you about that later.

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,

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.


Cory said...

You know this is just my kind of story. Our town is FULL of beggers, and a lot of times they will get money from someone and go right past them into the closest eatery. I feel like "they are not suffering". Not that they should, but it is a total racket. I see alot of them getting their daily fix as well. It is unnerving! I mean... act a little humble. Go buy some groceries, or a room for a night or so, but don't blow it all on immediate gratification. Many of the people in my area get upwards of $200 a day. It is beyond frustating, and that is why I will not help. :(

Last year there was this woman begging with her child. She held a sign that said husband lost his job, no money, etc. etc. But many times I would see this so called husband walking his family to the curb, and get her all set up to beg for the day, and he would disappear. They looked hard up, but one thing bugged me about him... HE SMOKED. Do you know how expensive cigarettes are? And he just left em' there. Grr.

I want to feel sorry, but often times I can't. I ask God to forgive me. :(

emmy said...

I never give money, but I have taken people into restaurants and had them order anything they want. I have also taken them to the gas station and bought gas for them and taken them to the pharmacy and bought medications (and even condoms) for them. The only ones who bother me are the ones who ask for money and won't accept my offer to go with them to purchase the needed item. They are the ones whom I feel are scamming.

emmy said...

Thanks for your comment on my blog. For me it's about entertaining strangers being angels unaware. I don't want to pass by on any blessings.