A few weeks ago, I was driving to the grocery store. On the street corner of the parking lot was a middle-aged man waving a large white poster board. The words “Please Help” were written in big block letters at the top. I didn’t read the rest of his sign. Instead, I was focused on the two young children, a boy and a girl, standing next to him. A middle-aged woman stood off to the side. She had her hands folded and would bow her head as if in prayer and gratitude to every car that passed by. I had no cash on me so I didn’t stop. I just said a silent prayer to God and the angels to bless the family as I drove into the parking lot.
But as I walked into the grocery store, I could not get that family out of my mind. I suddenly heard a voice in my head telling me to buy additional groceries. I had such an urging that I felt as if someone was literally poking me in the back. I bought my groceries and two additional bags of food. I drove back to the corner and held the bags out to the family. The man started over to the car followed by the small children. It was the little girl who actually came up to my car window. I handed her the bags and the little girl whispered to me, “Thank you. Jesus bless you.”
I drove on and then suddenly realized that I had given the family some potato chips and peanuts. Wow–those things are salty and I didn’t give them any water. Again, I felt the push, the urge, to do something. I drove back to the grocery store and grabbed three large bottles of water. I drove back to the corner. The woman was still there while the man and children were sitting on the sidewalk across the street. I pulled up and handed the water out the window to her.
“Thank you,” she whispered gratefully. “That is exactly what we needed.” I watched the woman open one of the bottles as she walked over to the family. She held the bottle out to the little girl, who gripped it in both hands and drank deeply. I drove away feeling like maybe I had done a little bit of good in the world.
A few days later, I was having lunch with a friend. In the course of our conversation, I started to talk about the family. My generosity was not going to be rewarded. My friend laughed and said, “Oh, my gosh, you actually gave them food?”
“Yes,” I answered. “I just couldn’t say no to the kids.”
“Well, you know that’s a scam, don’t you?” my friend said. “Those kids are ‘borrowed’.” At the shocked look on my face, my friend went on to explain. “It’s well-known in this city that that isn’t a real family. I work at Denny’s and the man comes in almost every night. He just sits in one of the booths and laughs about all of the money he made that day. He makes thousands of dollars a week by putting the kids out to beg.” My friend paused for a moment and then said, “I’m sure it’s the same guy. You have to be careful. Don’t be so naïve. Don’t give anybody anything anymore.”
I just smiled at my friend and shook my head yes. I didn’t want to argue with her. She could be right, and, at first, I was a little embarrassed about the possible “scam.” Maybe I needed to be more careful in the future.
But I kept thinking about those kids. I thought about the way the child had whispered, “Jesus bless you” when I handed the food to her. I kept thinking about the way the young girl drank the water from the bottle. It had been hot that day and the child had been so thirsty. She needed that water. Scam or not, how could I deny the child water? And so maybe, just maybe, I had still done a little bit of good in this world. I’m sure there had been a blessing in there somewhere.