27 April 2007

Open Hands

27 April 2007

I’ve been taken by street con men twice, to my knowledge.  There may have been other times when I just didn’t realize what was going on but two times now I have given money to strangers in trouble and then found incontrovertible evidence that they had lied to me about their needs.  That hasn’t stopped me from responding to people in need, but it had made me think about the nature of generosity and being open handed with what I have.

I had though of writing on this topic a while back, not long after giving money to someone and then not really being sure that they needed the money.  I thought all the way home about what I had done and what I would do if I ever found out that the person had duped me.

Then, just a few days ago, I ran into the same person, with the exact same story– only this time he approached my husband.  I recognized him and gave my husband a heads up and then sat back and listened as the man made his pitch.  It was word-for-word the same story he had given me many months ago, on the same street.  It was interesting to be ‘along for the ride’ as it were.  My husband, normally a generous man himself, gently deflected the man requesting funds and we were on our way.

Do I feel bad about having been taken in the first time?  Yes, a little.  No one likes to be made a fool of or outwitted.  In my conversations with my husband and in my own meditations on the subject I have decided that I would rather err on the side of generosity.  I would rather be a fool than lose an opportunity to help someone in need.  If this means that the occasional con-man get to feel smug, so be it.

For all my conflicted feelings about religion, one of the cores of my faith is that those with enough should share with those who are lacking.  The rich are rich and the poor are poor not because some god has decided to reward one group and punish another but because luck and chance and free will are active in our lives.  Opportunity comes to some, disaster to others and no one gets to choose when or where the wheel will turn.  Currently, I am one of the fortunate ones but I take to heart the idea that, even though God won’t turn on me, fate might, and one day I might be the one with the open hand asking for help. 

I don’t expect the world to keep a total of my good deeds and have them count on my behalf should the worst happen.  The world doesn’t work like that.  I just believe that what we have should be shared as best as we can manage.   It is imperfect, but it is the best that I can do..