I had to get my car’s emissions checked today since I need to renew my license today. I saw a family at a corner but didn’t read their sign. They looked middle eastern, with a husband, wife, and three kids. At the time I was focused on my emissions test.

I arrive and I’m told it will be 15-20 minutes. No big deal. I go to get something to eat. As I’m walking, I pass by the family again. I have time to read the sign. They’re trying to get the family home and are looking for gas or food. I can do that. I mean, they’re at a gas station.

“Want me to fill up your car?”

“That would be great. Can you spare anything for food? A visa gift card would be great.” That’s the gist of it. His English was good but broken.

As he gets in his car, I notice Illinois sort of plates. Not even temp plates. I don’t know what it really means. There was one talking about drive around. So I was more than a little confused on those plates, but it’s pretty crappy to attach strings to a good deed. I went in with a giving heart, and need or not, I was going to give what I could.

So I fill him up with gas. $30. That’s steep. I mean, as the month comes to a close, I’m getting a little tight. Still, I can help.

I ask where he’s going. Oklahoma City. I ask about his kids and why he came out here. He was in Chicago to find work but didn’t have his green card so no one would hire him. He’s probably stereotyping me. I’m likely a hippy. I’m against illegal immigrants. I’m a conservative. But it sounded like he wanted to be productive, and I’m more against the illegal immigrants committing criminal acts.

I ask him what’s in OKC. His mother is there, and that’s where they’re from, so they already have roots. That’s awesome. All this guy and his family have to do is get to OKC. It’s like a 10 hour drive tops. So he thanks me, brings up the visa gift cards, and drives off. I’m going to help this guy get his family to OKC. Like, food is important, but a stomach can survive for ten hours.

I go into the Mobile gas station. They’re pretty scattered about, and when I visit my brother in South Dakota I can find Mobile. I get a $50 gift card. That’s a fill up and a half, and two and a half tanks should get him pretty close to OKC if it doesn’t get him there out right.

He brings up the visa gift cards again. He thanks me, but he says the kids need food and such. I told him that the gift card should get them close to OKC. But the kids. Gift cards. Visa. Food. The kids need food. He mentioned earlier they’re picky, so they’d rather get a gift card than have food purchased for them. Fair enough.

I feel something is wrong, but I’m already half way in. He brings up several times the kids are hungry and need food, but they need to buy it with a gift card. I’m going to lunch. There was an IHOP across the street he said they liked. So I told him I was going to get lunch, they can come to IHOP with me, and I’ll pay their bill.

At this point he flat out rejects my kindness and more or less says unless it’s on a gift card they can use for anything, they want nothing else from me.

Got it. You do not plan on using this at all to aid your children and you are not going to OKC.

I was discouraged. Someone I know said he wouldn’t give again because of his similar experience.

In the future I will still give. I’d rather be swindled repeatedly in the hopes of reaching one family than to miss out on that one family because I threw my money away on people who don’t need it. I’d love to have more job openings so I can employ those individuals who are asking for work. I’m sure they expect, “Clean my garage for the day.” Instead it’s a steady 8-5 job. I’m sure some would balk, like this family. He said he couldn’t find work, while asking for handouts in front of a “Help Wanted” sign. But again, if my love can reach one person, and if it can help them be lifted up or even change their heart, that’s good enough for me. I’ll throw away hundreds to help the few.

Have you ever given and felt swindled? Ever give and you were able to see the beautiful outcome? When I visit Guatemala I get to see the beautiful outcome.

5 Comments on “Swindled?

  1. Been there…and no longer give money directly to people. When you’re asked for money to buy food, and the offer of actual food is refused, that’s not a hungry person–that’s a scam, and a really low one when kids are used as pawns. I will give money to organizations that help people in need (and direct the needy to those organizations for help), or I will give needed items outright: food, clothes, blankets, toiletries, etc. Nothing that has enough value to be sold for alcohol or drugs. I can still be a light that way without falling prey to people like those you encountered. It’s not only that I don’t like feeling taken, either. At the end of the day, I only have so many resources to share, and I want them to go to the people who really need them. What good does it do if everything I have to spare goes to those who are just taking advantage of me? There is nothing wrong with using some discernment when being charitable. Not every cause is a worthy one.

  2. The saying, “beggars can’t be choosers” comes to mind. If his kids were hungry he’d have taken whatever he could get.
    I agree with the above comment. If they want food, I buy them food. Discernment is the key.

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