Last week my neighbor came over for a visit. She stayed and helped me do dishes and cook, then we chatted. It was such an enjoyable time. I finally had made a friend. We have lived in our new city for 6 months and this was the first time anyone has come over and spent an extended amount of time over at my house… the first time someone has actually tried to understand my muddled language. It was wonderful and unexpected, an answer to prayer. As dusk drew near and the call to prayer rang from the mosque (her cue to go home) she leaned in real close to me and whispered, “I need some money. Can I borrow some money?” Uhhh…ouch! A dart to my heart. I was stunned. I felt used and upset and sad and disappointed, but mostly…hurt.
I use to describe myself as a generous person. In the States, I had no problem giving. It wasn’t even a concern in my heart. Of course, back then, we had more money, a corporate job, fewer kids, and living below our means. An opportunity to give would come up and it was easy to know whether to give or not to give. I usually could discern when there was an actual “need”.
But here, in a developing country, it is difficult. We are bombarded with needs every day. There is poverty around us, children are hungry and clothed poorly, the education is less than par and the elderly are suffering with NO access to medical help or medication. Our neighbors don’t have running water and sleep on bug infested mats. How do we know when to help? How can we actually help?
We hear catch words like “dependency” and we are told that “we will be taken advantage of”. We are warned that the money we give to street children only makes it into the pocket of their handler. Then, when we do give, we find out later we were lied to. We don’t understand the situation and we do more harm than good. Or our neighbor gets irate because they feel they deserve to get help more than the other person.
Headache. Heartache. Confusion.
“Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.” Luke 6:30
Generosity here is tricky. I tend to clench my fists in frustration. But if I am told to give to everyone, then that must include the lazy, dishonest, users and abusers? Surely, they aren’t excluded from the word, “everyone.”
My husband reminds me the key is to give and let the Lord tend to the heart of the receiver. I am not responsible for how the gift is used but only responsible for how it is given. If I could walk in that truth daily then maybe my response to my neighbors would be one of kindness, compassion and love. I have to reconcile to myself that it is okay to be taken advantage of occasionally and for people, at times, to find me a fool. If generosity is a fault, may I be found guilty.