Monday, June 21, 2010

Looking for a Hand Out

Looking for a Hand out.
So I spent the last hour talking to a guy who wanted money for a motel room. He stops at the church, says he and his wife were on their way to Rondo Mountain Nevada, where he is supposed to start work. Evidently broke down first in Wyoming, and then limped the car here, are now out of gas money, and now have been camping in middle canyon for the last four days, and could use a shower and bed to sleep in for the night.
This happens, normally over the phone, where perhaps it is a little easier for me to say no. But a man staring me in the face is a bit more uneasy. And in the back of my mind is always the church’s reputation. I say no, or we can’t help, and it seems to me it gives the church a bad reputation as not caring. Of course I do care. But when I don’t know you from Adam, well? So the story of the Good Samaritan plays over in my head. Truth is I probably could have given the guy $40. But I better have good reason to do that, before I answer to my wife.
But I don’t help this man out. Why? For the first thing, if you are trying to get from point A to point B, ask for gas money, not a motel room. If your water pump isn’t working ask for that. It would cost you about the same amount of money to fill your car with gas and replace the broken water pump as it would to get a hotel room for the night. Perhaps you can find a motel room for $40, but then you could fill your gas tank up for that, and make it at least half way to wherever Nevada. Most tanks of gas push a car about 300 miles, and we are 400 from Reno, which is the very other end of Nevada from here.
It boggles me the things for which people call. They don’t come to church. But they see a church and somehow assume we are supposed to help them with rent money, because his girlfriend kicked him out of her apartment after 3 months of him not having a job and playing video games all day. Or the guy who wants heart medication, because he checked himself out of the hospital that was taking care of him to pick up his mutt from the motel room he was staying at when he had a heart attack, before the mutt is taken to the pound. Story after story, and they get just weird. Somehow I always feel just a bit bad saying no.
But then when your shaking and twitching uncontrollably and scratching everywhere, asking for money for a motel room, when you should be asking for gas money, am I to assume you’re not going to just spend it on meth? And it is times like that that Christ’s words about selling your cloak and buying a sword comes to mind, because I really don’t want to fight with a guy on meth when his mood swings. Though he tells me it is ADD, and he is out of his meds, and only has some treating his Bipolar disorder. And maybe that is legit. But somehow I just doubt it. So no. Today I am not going to be the good Samaritan for you.


Steve Martin said...

It is tough saying no to these folks. But I think it has to be done sometimes when giving them money will just prolong their problem.

We have food vouchers that we get from the local grocery store and sometimes we'll give the folks some of those instead of money.

It's not a perfect solution, but... it's not a perfect world.

Some of these folks make a minimal living by making the rounds and hitting up churches.

I've heard the "I just need x dollars for gas or a motel room" many, many times.

Brigitte said...

In the dental clinic they just want Oxycontin. Nothing else will do.

Listen! You have 5 cavities and a abscessed wisdom tooth. How about we pull the wisdom tooth and then we prescribe you some painkiller.

That's where it could be nice to have an organized approach. The Alliance church in town maintains a fund for needy members. My sister's church keeps food packages for migrants.

Bror Erickson said...

I have talked to other pastors, some have programs set up to help, others have no qualms saying no.
I suppose I go case by case, I have helped at times. Other times I just don't have it. Especially when the story doesn't add up.
It isn't even that they are drug addicts or something like that. It's more if they are being honest, and trying to do the right thing.
Food I can help with. I might even buy the guy a beer. But take stock of what you are doing, and be honest.
I can't imagine what it would have been like to run a clinic where oxycontin was available. It must have been hard to see those people coming all the time and asking for something you knew couldn't give, and I bet fearing they could become violent at any moment. And you wanting to genuinely help them, and they not wanting the help you have for them.