Thursday, July 16, 2015

On the Other Hand - The Woman who Needed Gas

Yesterday, I wrote about the woman who came up to my car window to ask for money to buy some food. I was just about to leave Five Guys, and absolutely no alarm bells went off in my head. So, as it turned out, I not only gave her money for lunch but we had a nice chat, too. 

On the other side of that coin, there are times when my intuition tells me to avoid a situation, and I listen to that voice in my head. 

This morning I received an email from someone who listened to the voice of caution but felt badly about the situation. If we care, we are going to feel badly about others sometimes. Sometimes, it might likely not be what they claim, but we might still feel badly. Here is, approximately, what I wrote to him:

"I understand your distress about the woman who asked for help the other night because, whatever her intentions, she was in distress. We don't want to see someone suffer and not be able to help. But I don't think it was within your scope to be able to help her. You are right; if she needed gas and her mother was having a heart attack, she should have called 911. If she didn't have a phone, she could have asked you to call 911, or raced into the store to ask someone to do so. You might not have thought of 911 until afterward because you were being approached for help, asking for another "solution". But who wouldn't think of it if was their own relative having a heart attack and they were short on gas?  And when you recommended she seek help in the store, she just stood there. 

"Thinking of reasons, other than her "mother's heart attack", that she might have been talking fast, I thought about your location: a grocery store parking lot, shortly before closing time, in an area where you can buy alcohol in the grocery store. 

"I thought, "Can alcohol withdrawal make someone hyper?"  I Googled that, and I found several sites that said withdrawal can cause hyper-excitability, anxiety, and agitation, among other things. So her anxiety could have been very real and valid.

"Looking at her story at face value at the time, you couldn't help her because you knew the gas station didn't accept cash at that hour, and you were wise not to offer to go to the pumps with her to use your debit card. But she probably didn't actually need gas, and she probably hadn't thought through all the details of her story.

"I'm guessing she had a real problem, but probably not her mother having a heart attack. It could have been a more long term problem than you could possibly do anything about since you can't follow her around and feed her habit. If she has one. Because, of course, I am making up a story! And I wasn't even there. It is absolutely not for me to say or know what her intentions were! But I do think that the pieces of her story don't seem to fit together. 

"Whatever her real story was, you were probably seeing someone in true distress, but someone you couldn't help. And that is always a tough feeling."

I share this to say, no, I don't recommend we do just anything that would naturally follow from someone's request. They need gas? The only way to do it would be to go to the pump, where no one else is at this hour, and use our card? No, I don't recommend that. 

Or,  someone else I know was once approached on a bus to get off at the bus stop and go together to an ATM to get some money from his account. No, I don't recommend that (and he didn't do it). 

There are some ways we can help people, and others that are not so wise. At the same time, we can still have compassion in our hearts. It is always right to have compassion. 

Just sharing some other thoughts.   

Here was my post about The Woman at my Window

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