How would you react if you offered to be generous to someone in need, only to find out that they weren’t really in need at all?
I ask because this happened to me recently. Someone offered to buy my kids some hot chocolate.
Oh, were you thinking that I was the generous one? Well, I do try to be a generous person; but more and more I run into instances where someone is trying to be generous to me.
And I don’t like it.
No that sounds terrible, I really do really love it, but I hate how it makes me feel. Wait… what? I’m making no sense.
I was biking the kids to school one morning and a lady came running out of a gas station at us to offer to buy us bus passes. It was an extremely sweet and generous offer. And not only was she willing to shell out the cash– she was willing to leave her warm post and hunt us down to offer it!
For half a second I thought about what it would be like to accept just so she can be happy about her kindness.
But I feel terrible because I had to tell her no because I would be a terrible person if I accepted her offer. You see, she thought we were needy. She thought that we biked past her place of employment every day because we had no choice because, really, who would willingly bike in the snow?
But I had to tell her the truth and ruin her good deed. I somehow had to tell her that we had access to, not one, but THREE working vehicles. I had to tell her that we have plenty of money, both in cash and credit, to purchase bus passes easily if we need them. I somehow had to convey in one short sentence that our biking is not due to need—at least monetary need. That what we are in need of is: Exercise. Together time. Personal discipline. A simpler life. Self-reliance. A healthier planet. Contentment. Etc.
And somehow I had to tell her all this. Here’s one sentence that would encapsulate it all: “Sorry lady, I’m actually quite rich compared to the rest of the world and we do this because this is the best way to do it; so it looks like you have it all wrong, especially if you don’t bike yourself.”
I’m a jerk.
But I’m NOT a jerk, really. I really do love the offer. I love the kindness of strangers. In fact, one of the reasons I love to bike is that I feel more connected to the community. There’s less metal and glass blocking me off from everyone else. I make MUCH more eye contact with people when I’m biking. When I drive, they’re cars. When I bike, they’re people.
So, Dear lady, I am happy to meet you. I am beyond touched at the sweetness of your offer to us total strangers. You don’t know us and yet you care enough about us to want to help us. I appreciate that so much. Please don’t take my rejection of your offer as a rejection of you. Please understand that your offer, though well thought out, does not really apply in my situation once you know the whole truth. I hope you can realize with what joy we bike (although when we meet you we are just finishing coming to the top of a long hill and are a little sweaty and winded); and I hope you can also find joy in realizing that we share this little part of the planet. Be sure to wave when you see us bike by tomorrow, I’ll be watching for you. That is what I would like to say.
Here’s what I did say:
*big over zealous smile to try and portray my delight but probably came off more creepy clown-like*
“Oh, thank you so much but we bike for fun, right guys?”
*Kids pant out a tired “yeah” after coming up the hill.*
I have not done this lady’s generosity justice.
But this is the time of year where we are reminded more and more about giving and generosity. We give piles of gifts; and, if you can’t afford them, numerous organizations have been collecting like mad to give you piles of gifts free of charge so you’re not left out of the gifting process.
But it’s hard to receive sometimes, isn’t it?
Either we don’t feel worthy (my problem) or we don’t feel understood (also my problem.)
So here’s my open letter to EVERYONE. I am not worthy and it’s okay if you don’t understand me. I am letting you all know right now so you’re not put off by my weird, off the cuff reaction. I just don’t want you to feel tricked. I’m not trying to trick you. I don’t live by normal social rules for other reasons. Not to make you feel bad for me so I can get a free meal and then laugh manically later when I put the money I saved on lunch into my huge vault of gold bars. “Ha, ha, ha, got another free lunch. What a stooge. More now for me!”
So, should we be more cautious in our giving to stay away from the character I just described? I keep thinking about the Bible verse, let’s see (internet to the rescue)… Hebrews 13:2 “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
No, I am not saying that I’m an angel. I am saying that we are supposed to be kind to strangers and they may even not really have any need at all. You see, it’s the GIVING that’s on you. Just the act of giving. What is done after it’s received is all on the recipient.
I promise to do my best not to intentionally dupe you and I also understand what a great thing it is to be on the giving end. I don’t want to take that from you. So give. Please give. Willingly and freely give. Just understand, you might find that the person you’ve given to is actually not as needy as you might think. That’s okay. In this world you’ll have plenty of opportunities to give and still 99.9% of the time whomever is on the receiving end will be blessed by it—even if it’s not really what they need.
So what about you? Have you ever found yourself as an unwitting target of charity? How do you feel? How do you respond?
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/lwr/2079071542/”>Leo Reynolds</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>
photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/calgarycyclechic/10525864054/”>Calgary Cycle Chic</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a>