Monday, April 06, 2009

Scam in the Wal-Mart parking lot

I love our small group.

A few months ago at one of our meetings, I mentioned giving money to a guy in the Wal-Mart parking lot who told me a story about being out of town and needing to borrow a little cash to get his insulin. He promised to send the money back to me when he got home. I had hoped he was the real deal, but never heard from him again.

One of the other couples in the group gave money to the same guy - same story, different day. We talked talked about feeling dumb and what we could have done differently - I would have gone into the pharmacy to pay for it in person....or should we give cash at all?

6 months later, another group member encounters the same guy in the WalMart parking lot, remembers our conversation, and gives him $20 anyway. Why would she do that, knowing he was scamming her?

My friend is a recovering drug addict. And she said that when she got clean, one of the things that really convicted her that she needed to turn her life around was the knowledge that she had taken advantage of SO many people...maybe if she gives him money, it'll be one more face he thinks about when he considers the people he's hurt.

I don't know...right or wrong? do you give money to people and let them make their own choices? Carry food coupon books with you? Never give money to anyone?

I just love that fact that I'm in a group with former drug addicts, orphans and alcoholics, teachers and stay-at-home moms, college grads and soldiers.....

Being in a small group isn't always easy....we talk about tough topics, accidentally hurt each other's feelings, challenge and encourage eachother, and sometimes frustrate eachother. But every time we're together, I'm reminded that God put us together in community because we need eachother - we're better together.


amanda said...

I gave money to that same guy last semester. I talked w/ Vicky afterwards and she told me how she had heard of a man doing that. I to felt dumb at first for giving in and handing over the cash. But at the time, I just pictured Jesus and how he's the hungry, the homeless, the naked, the thirsty. Needless to say I don't go to WalMart at late hours by myself anymore.

Meg DeZutti said...

I don't carry a lot of cash with me, but I am one of those who gives cash, food, whatever I have at the time. If it's outside a grocery, I go in and buy bread, lunch meat and fruit. If I have money, I give what I can. am I stupid? Likely. But I always feel that they are suffering (whether from an addiction, or a different hurt in their heart is causing them to take advantage of others). Either way, I figure at that moment, they need it more than I do. If that's the good I did that day, than that's something, right?

Gretchen Magruder said...

Amanda, I've gotta wonder what kind of serious coin this guy is making if I know of 4 people who gave to him?!

Meg, I'm with you....I want to continue to be generous, without making judgments about people. However, this situation will probably help me do it in a smarter way next time!!

CWestlake said...

I used to occasionally give money to homeless or needy people on the streets. Sad as it is, I will never do that again. I have realized that there are places and resources for those people - homeless shelters, food banks, etc. who truly help them and that is where my money goes now. Having cash in the pocket to go buy alcohol isn't truly helping them, but giving money to St. John's Breadline to feed them is.

a moore said...

we get people who come to the house, not as much as africa but still we get people from time to time. our neighborhood guards tend to toss people if they are too annoying though. our policy-mine more than jon's- is that i give to every family fruit, egg, rice. in africa we give bread, egg and fruit. i almost never give money anywhere and i never give it from our door- just not safe. for me, praying through and formulating some line has helped me. from the car i give to old people and children, but never teenage boys- i know that sounds unkind but Jonathan doesn't want me openign the door to teenage boys- and frankly, here, they scare me a little.

so in the parking lot, i can take you to the ER and they are bound by the law to treat the patient. if he needs insulin, they'll provide it.

Gretchen Magruder said...

courtney, I agree, there are some great community resouces we can refer people to....

and Amanda, I think having a plan ahead of time is you're not driven by emotion or adrenaline. I remember Sarah being with me when I met that guy, and I think my mind was racing so fast with "what should I do?" and "what am I teaching my daughter" that I didn't really think it through. I think if someone needs food or gas or medicine and we want to help them, it's probably smarter to offer to take them to a restaurant/gas station/pharmacy and personally pay for it

Mamushsky World Headquarters said...

My usual practice was to give food and honestly sometimes when I'm not feelin' compassionate at all, I've done nothing.

Interestingly, on the way to St.Louis on referral day, we pulled off the highway to get gas...on the exit was a man asking for money. Jim gave him some cash.

It just didn't seem right to not be giving and compassionate on that beautiful day.

It feels ICK to get played, but I think it actually feels worse to not give with positive intention to lift someone if only for a brief moment. I suppose selfishly, it lifts me; but, I do hope the energy of the intention makes some waves..

:) By the way, though it seems pretty impossible, I really think I should see you/you all more often.

Take care!!

jeremy fenelon said...

Ask a police officer what you should to and they will tell you not to give cash but offer to call the police. The public safety people have vouchers for food, fuel,and other travel if there is a real need. Think about it, if its a real need you will take help from the police? I feel if they decline help from the po-po its not a legit cause and you should run!

I had a sangamon county officer inform me of this when we had a dude ask for cash in our driveway a few years ago. The officer's main point was you don't know what mental state these people are in. They make attempt to take more than your cash.