Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What Would You Do?

An unusual situation today.

I work in a college town of about 50,000. There is a district that caters to the college crowd. Great restaurants that are difficult to get into for lunch during the school year. Today our office went to lunch at one of those restaurants and we had to wait about 20 minutes to be seated. Not a problem.

Weather was gorgeous so we waited outside. While waiting, a woman approached our group. Within seconds it was evident that something was "off." She was standing close to me and it was obvious that she was already on her days drunk. She said she had free food (a sub sandwich in a bag) and she wanted money from one of us to go buy a drink. A few in our group said they didn't have change or only large bills, etc. One gentleman in our group gave her 2 quarters and said "have a nice day." She took his change but then gave us a lecture about how we need to change our ways, be grateful for what we have, help others, that she has terminal cancer and you never know when it's going to end. And then she told me that I was number one (in sign you get that?) and threw in some colorful language.

She took about 5 steps back and then said, "You can all watch this and see how it plays out." She approached a group of 3 twenty-something men and I assume she gave them the same spiel she gave us. I don't know what their response was to her but she spit on one of them. Yes, spit. Do you know what his move was? He called the cops. She walked away and he followed her and remained on the phone. He's got grounds to press charges. That's considered assault (I got that information from Lawman). Did you know that? I didn't. I don't know how that situation ended but it left me wondering if I handled it poorly.

Should I have helped her? I'm willing to help others but I also think that others need to be willing to help themselves.

My first thought was that she's probably going to panhandle until she gets enough cash for her next drink and I'm betting it's not soda.

Have you found yourself in an awkward situation like this? How did you handle it? What would you do?


Amy in Edmond said...

I've read your blog for sometime, but I've never commented.

An elder at our church told us one time that he had a similar situation. He didn't help and has always felt bad ever since, some 40 years later. He said that from then on he always helped and God could do the judging later.

Michelle @ Give a Girl a Fig said...

I usually listen to my gut instinct, my discernment. If something is tugging at my heart...then I listen to that. If something is sending up a red flag...than I listen to that, too. It sounds to me like she was sending up red flags all over the place. And that she didn't truly need HELP. She needed a DRINK...and that's different. Especially if she's not going to accept "no" graciously...and instead tells you you're number one (which really made me laugh by the way...). I would have done the same as you... I think the bottom line is to listen to God in those moments. Does HE want you to help someone? He'll tell you...and you'll know in your heart.

Kristin said...

I probably would have seen if she needed a ride home - if she knew where home was. Or help her call someone who could pick her up. It's a touchy situation. You don't know if they're a mad/mean drunk. Maybe I would have taken her into a slow fast food place and got her something there. I just don't know. I think Michelle is right - follow your instinct. God will be there with you.

Anonymous said...

In that specific incident you and a co-worker could have gone to a different establishment, purchased a drink for her and handed it to her. Plenty of places close where you could have gotten quicker service, and she would have had a beverage to go with her sandwich. Probably not the beverage she craved. I would not have allowed her to separate you from your group. What's Lawman say?

Nancy said...

Lawman said she was lookin' for beer money and she isn't gettin' a dime when she smells like a bar at noon. He deals with this kind of stuff every day. He shows compassion and patience for those that need it and hammers 'em when they don't. Does that sound harsh? Really, he's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Lawman. We have people that sit at the end of a freeway exit with their cardboard signs asking for money. I never give it. I actually always put on my sunglasses so they can't see my eyes. They make me nervous. I'm not going to give money to someone that is either going to go buy cigarettes or alcohol - that is not helping them at all. I think once - I handed them a piece of fruit that I had in the car.

Personally, she would have scared me and I would stay far clear especially if the kids were with me. I would never offer her a ride. I probably don't sound to compassionate and I just got done reading a Bible verse about being compassionate. Maybe I have some work to do, I just think there is a fine line.

Nina Diane said...

my feelings are that giving her money, would have just led to her buying more alcohol. I don't mind helping people but she sounds like she was in such a state, that giving her money would have just added to the problem.

Anonymous said...

i agree with michelle. listen to your heart.

from what you have said here i would have done the same as you and i think i'm a pretty compassionate person.

having lived with an addict for some time i can tell you that SOMETIMES the best thing you can do for a person is not help them. which is a hard lesson for you and i.

in the end i wouldn't have taken a chance in doing anything, she sounds truly unstable!

Jenni said...

I've been told I'm a bit of a bleeding heart, but I wouldn't have given her money either, given what she told you and her behavior. I may have gone and bought her a bottled water, but it doesn't sound like that's what she wanted. I did know that spitting on someone could be considered assault, but I probably wouldn't have called the cops. I would have been pissed off, and I may have said something nasty to her, but then I would have gone and found a place to wash up and tried to forget about it. So, I am a bleeding heart but hopefully no fool with a bad temper and prone to foul language rather than violent acts of retaliation, and I'm not quick to involve authorities in simple disputes.

Anonymous said...

I too have been put in an awkward situation when a teenager asked me for money for a bus fare. I didn't trust his intentions so I said that I would buy him his ticket. Yes, I too was hurled abuse and given the finger in a very public place but I knew in my heart that I made the right decision.