Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Give Me...a Break, a Hand, a Piece of Your Mind

This week the kiddo is off school, so he's been coming to work with me at the church. Yesterday he helped finish packing Thanksgiving meal boxes for needy families, and today he helped me buy extra turkeys and hand out meals. It was exhausting, but awesome. I'm really glad he gets the opportunity to help on projects like that.

I have to admit that while I love being able to help people who need it, I also find less charitable thoughts creeping into my mind at times. For instance, today I brought out two meal boxes (containing green beans, cream of mushroom soup, sweet potatoes, marshmallows, rolls, pie crust, canned pumpkin, evaporated milk, stuffing mix, chicken broth, cranberry sauce...and sometimes other things as well) and two turkeys for a mother and her daughter who had called the church to be put on the list. They'd brought along another person who asked if we had any other meal boxes, and I sadly told him we didn't.

The truth was that we really did have an extra one, but it was sort of our backup, last-minute box, and I didn't want to give it to someone who was helping cart away two full family meals already. I felt bad about it, but I didn't feel it would be right to carelessly hand out yet another meal to someone who already had one (as far as I could tell). I wondered if I was being judgmental about whether this person "deserved" an extra meal box. Not a good feeling.

As it turned out, I got a message when I got back into the office. Apparently someone had a friend who was living in a group home for people with AIDS, and she wondered if we could help her friend. So that's who's getting the extra meal tomorrow. I guess things work out the way they do for a reason, but...still.

It would be nice to be able to give freely. There are so many people in need, and just the same, I know there are also plenty of people who play us for charity. One woman calls us periodically and asks us for amounts of money and food that we can't supply, in a time frame that wouldn't work for us anyway. She's been doing this for going on two years, and the impression is that she's more of a manipulator than a person in need. We helped her twice at the beginning, then declined further calls.

That's hard.

My boss, a pastor, says there's a difference between being charitable and being mericiful. Merciful is giving the shirt off your back, even if you have to suffer. Charitable is giving people what they need in order to help themselves. I lean toward merciful; it's hard to say no. My boss is one to set boundaries. This makes for some interesting discussions and uncomfortable moments for me.

I don't think there's only one right way to give; we all do what we want with what we have, and every bit of generosity helps. Still, I'd be interested in knowing your thoughts on giving. What's your giving style? When is it "right" to not give? Do you give to everyone, or just to people who "deserve" it?