David Dodd 2:33 a.m., May 19
I was hungry. It was Tuesday night. The Jack-in-the-Box on Scripps Poway Parkway was open. The circumstances were just right for one of my favorite scenarios: boy meets burger, boy falls in love with burger, boy devours burger! After making my selections and purchasing my bag of goodies from Jack’s establishment, I was returning to my car when a young woman approached me in the parking lot. She was distraught because her father had just suffered a heart attack. She had run out of gas while rushing down to Mercy Hospital to visit him. She had no money. My heart didn’t hesitate to give her a few bucks (surely her reunion with her ailing father was worth at least what I had just paid for a burger!) as I hope any stranger would if my wife, sister, or niece were the one in need. My head, however, warned me not to be a sucker! Some decisions are easy. When asked for spare change outside a convenience store by a reasonably well-dressed person with any degree of “bling-bling,” I have no problem saying no. Actually, upon further review, I’m not sure I’ve ever possessed any change that really qualified as “spare” in my life! When encountering the indigent fellow that has a date with Maddog 20/20 in his immediate future, or the unfortunate traveler who through a series of events finds it necessary to solicit a handout to sustain his/herself, there’s little doubt where your offerings will end up. Their motivation seems clear, their relative brass ring, albeit wine-soaked or not, appears obvious. This case was not so clear to me. I wanted to believe that I had helped in a small way and brought a little comfort to this young woman’s world, but it also crossed my mind just how much such a thespian honing her skills on the asphalt expanse of a local eatery might pull down on a regular basis…humm?...Why not borrow my phone to call a friend or relative? Why not ask for a ride to the hospital? Why not sell that lovely watch you’re wearing? Your ipod has to be worth, at least, a tank of gas, huh? But, of course, that was just my head trying to cause trouble. My heart knew (and still knows) that charity and kindness are based on our perception of how much the other person needs our help and that “reality” needn't get involved in cases like this as long as we are content with our own actions. As I was driving out of the shopping center, my head reminded me that I could turn left towards the freeway and check to see if the young woman’s truck was indeed awaiting her return with fuel, but, to tell you the truth, I just didn’t have the heart.
Daniel J McAuliffe 8/31/09