Monday, February 23, 2009

The Horns of a Dilemma

I was minding my own business in the grocery store - picking up a few necessities for the week - when over by one of the frozen food displays a woman approaches me.

She was very apologetic and a bit frantic. Her story was that she had lost her job two weeks ago and had had no income for two weeks. Her cupboards were bare. She had two children. Could I help her?

Now of course if someone is truly in need I want to help. But there were a few things happening here. One, I don't carry a lot of cash with me, so I couldn't hand this woman any money to go buy some food. I was surrounded by food in the store but I hadn't paid for it yet - I couldn't just hand her some food.

The other problem was that I didn't believe her. Two weeks unemployed and she has run through any savings and all her food? Possible of course, but... doubts lingered. Adding to my doubts was the fact that she looked remarkably like a woman who approached me and my kids in her car on Halloween. She was driving around a very quiet neighborhood trying to get together cash to pay for gas so she could drive to pick up her kids from their father's house about 20 minutes away. I had no cash on me that time either - and really didn't believe that story.

But... what if she wasn't lying. What if she really was out of food and was desperate to feed her kids. The food pantries are turning people away because they have too many to serve. So I stood there, next to the frozen fish and tried to figure out what to do.

What I did was told her that I'd buy her some cold cuts. If she was at the check out lane when I checked out I would give them to her then. I told her it would only be a few minutes. She said she'd wait for me there and thanked me profusely.

So I picked up two extra packages of sandwich meat and finished my shopping and a few minutes later I checked out.

The woman was nowhere to be seen. I looked around as I was leaving the store - but didn't see her.

Now I have two extra packages of sandwich meat and a vaguely dissatisfied feeling.


Jim Danielson said...

Sounds like she wanted money, not lunch meat. I've kind of been hardened to the point of never giving direct donations. Agencies such as shelters and local churches are much better equiped to determine real need. The bottom line, however, is that your heart was in the right place. You're a good person Chris -- hold that segment of the story.

Christine M said...

I kind of figured she wanted money too - but if she was really that desperate she would have taken cold cuts. Thanks for your kind words, Jim.

Elizabeth Kathryn Gerold-Miller said...

And on a week when you don't eat meat for two days! This has happened to me too and it is unsettling. You tried to do the right thing.

Christine M said...

Elizabeth - I know! Doesn't it just figure.