How Do You Know When To Give?

How do you know when to give? I am really wrestling with this idea. I want to be more gracious like I observe in others without feeling that I am being taken advantage of. There are so many needy people and so many opportunities to give. Here are a couple resent stories of when I did not step up and give when I had the opportunity.

First story

I was headed to the grocery store and, on the way, I stopped to get gas nearby.  I was approached by a young guy (16-19) in a navy hoodie and was asked for money or to buy his family groceries and I declined. He then approached a few others and headed toward the store.

When I got to the grocery store, I noticed a lady in a red jacket waiting in the entry.  She ended up meeting the guy in the navy hoodie. I saw them a few times in the store as he selected some food to put in his cart.  Then she paid for them.  I have to tell you; I was feeling guilty that I turned down that same guy, and that she was gracious enough to help him. 

They left the store together.  Here is where things changed.  When he saw that she had driven away, his demeanor totally changed, including the way he walked.  He turned around and pushed his cart with the hot rotisserie chickens back into the store and headed towards the local sports team merchandise.  It did not appear he was in a hurry to get the hot meal home to a hungry family.  I left the store and do not know what happened after that.

Another Story

I am an early morning runner and usually take a little cash with me.  Recently, I was near a retail center and grocery store when I saw a guy who was dirty and unkept, sleeping on the steps.  I thought about giving him my cash.  As I got closer, he sat up and swayed around and dropped back on to the ground.  To me, he seemed intoxicated. I did not give him the money because I thought he would use it to buy alcohol.

I have made assumptions about the people in both of my stories and I could be totally wrong about them and their situations.  These stories make me think about all the other people that I did not notice who truly needed the groceries or the money. How do I find them?  How do I help them as I am passing by?

Brother-In-Law Advice

I asked by brother-in-law and he believes that it is our job to give and help others.  (He prepares giving bags with some useful items and $5 that he keeps in his car to give as needed).  Once we give to our fellow man, our job is complete.  It is not our job to judge.  They have free agency and are accountable as to what they choose to do with the money.   

I like this concept and did think about his advice when I was in the grocery store.  The place where I get stuck is not wanting to be taken advantage of. I am not quite yet in the same mindset as my dear brother-in-law.  I do believe we have multiple opportunities to give, and I talk about that more in my blog Pay It Forward. 

How do you know when to give? What are your thoughts about this topic? I would love to hear them as I continue to wrestle with my thinking. 

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