Clumsy Compassion

We took the older four over to Mohican State Park (thanks for babysitting, Grandma!). I sat in the river and read a very interesting book (review to come later), while Luke took the kids on a hike to the falls. It was a really good time- the kind of getaway we hope to do more of when we are living in the area.
On the way home, we had to stop at Wal-Mart for some things. Luke ran in for what we needed, and I propped my book on my belly and read as we waited for him to return. A little later, this woman with a baby on her hip and a little boy in her hand caught my eye. She was pacing back and forth behind her car (I could tell it was hers because she would put the boy in the back seat from time to time, only to pull him back out and walk around the car again), looking this way and that. She then started across the parking lot with the children. I returned to my book, but soon noticed that she was back at the car. I decided to get out of the van and see if there was something I could do, like lend her my cell phone. I called across the pavement, “Can I help you?” and she answered back, “Yeah, there is something I’d like to ask you.”
Suddenly all this traffic came down our row, so we waited it out before she crossed over to talk to me. She then told me a rather involved and somewhat fishy story, about a friend still inside shopping, her husband needing picked up, but the main gist I got was that her baby needed a prescription she couldn’t afford. I gave her directions to my church, but beyond that, I wasn’t sure what else to do.
Break here: What would you do? My perfect little scene includes me launching into a thought-provoking gospel presentation, and maybe even having a few answers that will help her practically as well as spiritually. Might even gain a new church attendee! But what actually comes out of my mouth is something more sloppy and clumsy, definitely not enough.
Having given Luke the last of my cash, it didn’t occur to me to try to help monetarily. But when he came out of the store and we pulled away, I told him what she’d said about her situation and he mentioned that we maybe should pay for the prescription. As Great White was filling with gas, we weighed our options. We have seen my mother-in-law, Carol, model such generosity in these kinds of circumstances, and I noted that if it were her, that is what she would do. She often talks about how we needn’t worry about false motives in the one asking for help; God will take care of us. So, we headed back over to the parking lot; if she was there, I would offer to go in with her and pay for her baby’s prescription.
She was, and I did, but she politely refused. I pressed her a bit, telling her that I thought this would probably help her the most, but she thanked me and continued to refuse the offer.
We left, and when Luke heard that she said no, it was another indication to him that she wasn’t being completely honest with us- she probably just wanted cash. Between the extreme heat she was exposing her kids to, and the apparently little importance she ended up placing on her daughter’s health, I started to feel this way about her story, too. This, of course, bothers me if she was being dishonest; how could she use her kids to try and take advantage of me? Still, I know I couldn’t have been completely taken in with Luke around; my husband provides me with fair and balanced coverage. 🙂

Somewhere in the Mansfield area tonight, there is a woman who is in great need. It isn’t the kind that she wanted me to think she had, and it isn’t the kind I can meet. Only Jesus Christ can fill the deficit that is evident in her life. Her name is Paula; please pray that she finds this Hope soon, not for her sake alone, but for that of her children as well.

2 Replies to “Clumsy Compassion”

  1. I like how you did it-especially with Luke being there. My dad did that with homeless men who would ask our family for money for food. He would bring them with us to the nearest food place and witness to them as they ate! 🙂

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