Monday, September 13, 2010

Trying Not to be Cynical

So this morning I was approached by a woman at the gas station claiming her car had broken down and her kids were sleeping in the car. Yeah I know, it’s a typical panhandler line, but I was feeling charitable so I tried to help her and her kids out. I’d had a really bad week and I was projecting a little bit. If her week was half as bad as mine she could use someone to trust her.
Well to make a long story short: I never saw the kids or the truck and I got cussed out when I wouldn’t pay for a hotel room. I told her she could get out of my truck here or I could drop her off at the police station a block away.
Yeah I know it had all the signs of a scam from the beginning, but don’t they all? So here’s my question. How do you give people the benefit of a doubt without setting yourself up for being scammed? I stuck to my rule of helping rather than just giving them a handout. And I’m glad I did. But how do I now prevent this experience from jading me for next time? What tools do you use to tell who really needs help?


  1. Don't ask me. I'm a sucker. Although I've been watching Leverage. Think that'll help?

  2. I have a policy of doing my best to help somebody and not just giving them cash. I was willing to help fix her truck and get her kids somewhere to sleep. Our church has what they call a transient bishop who helps folks like this who are stranded when travelling. When it became clear that the only thing that would make her happy was money I excused myself politely from the situation. Even as she was getting out of the car I was still willing to fill her truck up but she didn't accept. If she really needed gas why in the world would she have passed that up?

  3. It's tough not to become jaded about giving a helping hand. I've spent the better part of 12 years working in a one mile radius of my state capitol and for the most part, I have become very picky as to I extend a helping hand to.

    Tell you one thing though, I will not extend a hand to someone who dresses in the latest hip-hop fashion and approaches me for spare change.

  4. When I worked in downtown Cincinnati, I used to carry packaged food with me, so I could hand a granola bar to anyone asking for money for food. And I once gave a pair of mittens to a blind man who said he didn't care that they were pink, and thinking of that makes me feel less jaded to this day.