This week I gave $24.00 and my leftover lunch to two people who asked me for help.
Many years ago, on an unusually cold winter night, a young girl showed up on my suburban doorstep. She had gotten turned around, confused by all of the streets that looked the same, and had exhausted the battery life on her smartphone. For a split second I worried that she might be scamming me, but then I realized that there was a cold, tired, and scared young girl in front of me, asking for my help. She came inside to warm up, we charged her phone, and we called her a cab to take her home. The cab came and then she disappeared.
I still think about her today. I truly hope she got home okay.
But mostly I think about that momentary feeling of doubt. And I’m mad at myself that I had it. That my instincts went to doubt, even if those feelings only stuck around for a few short seconds.
Two nights ago, I arrived at the airport to pick up my son, fresh from his visit to Milwaukee for two weeks at Green Bay Packers camp. His flight was delayed, of course. I watched the arrivals board change — 4 minutes late, 17 minutes late, 26 minutes late, 35 minutes late. So I moved myself out of the crowd of flower holders and eager relatives to
download this pokemon app and finally see what all of this fuss is about check my email.
“Do you speak English?” I looked up to see a young man in front of me, shaking, bleeding, scared. “Yes, of course. Are you okay?” He then went on to tell me this story about a fight with his boyfriend who beat him and then took his carry-on bag — which carried his passport and license and documents and money — and could I help him. He was talking so fast and shaking so much, it was hard for me to understand his story but I didn’t hesitate, reached into my bag and gave him a $20 bill. I directed him to someone who could help him — I had to go find my arriving son. He hugged me, cried again, and hugged me again. And then disappeared.
Yesterday, after lunch with a friend, a shaky woman approached the two of us, telling us that she was trying to get to a shelter but had to take two kinds of public transit to get there and didn’t have any money. We gave her what we had in cash — which for me was only $4 — and my lunch leftovers. And then she disappeared.
“What if they were scamming you?” a friend later asked me.
Look, they could have been scamming me. Of course they could have. But you know what? My gut told me told me the exact opposite. And to be honest, I’ve become a big fan of following my gut — even when my git is all, mmmmcookie dough. These two people went to the trouble to approach a complete stranger to beg for help. (You guys, *I* can’t even ask my mother-in-law for help.) There were no feelings of doubt here, not even for a second.
I’m still thinking about them today, but not because of any doubt.