I recognized the guy at the door. He'd first stopped by several weeks earlier, at a loss after the death of his father. He'd been by a couple times since, and I'd given him a gift card for a meal and another for clothing at a local store. Worth maybe fifteen dollars total, which is not much when you're trying to dig yourself out of the hole of poverty. I knew he'd been looking for work for a while, and hadn't had success.
But I didn't have any work for him to do, and a phone call I made to scare something up found nothing available.
I did, however, have $20 in my wallet, fresh from the bank that morning.
I hesitated. It's difficult to know the right thing to do. I got out the $20.
He was incredulous, tears in his eyes, a grown man jumping up and down, "Really? Really? I'll pay you back, I swear I will!"
"Don't worry about it," I said. "I'm lucky enough to have a job; now you're going to have one too."
For obvious reasons, I don't make a habit of giving out my money to those who come to the door, but from time to time... I went back to my work after he'd left, feeling warm and fuzzy from a good deed done--and wondering how the heck the poor fellow was going to eat for the day on the leftover $3.
He'd had the same thought, and returned a hour later to ask for another $20. "Really, I promise I'll pay you back." I had another $20, just as fresh as the first, that could solve his hunger problem.
I hesitated. It's difficult to know the right thing to do. I said, "I'm afraid we've come to the end of what I can do for you."
"Okay," he said, "I'm really sorry to have to ask."
"And I'm really sorry to have to say 'no,'" I told him. This time when he left, my good deed didn't feel quite as warm or as fuzzy as it had.
It felt even worse a week later, when he knocked on the door again. "I thought you were going to Seaside," I said.
He coughed. "I got sick. I couldn't go. Could you help me out with one more of those gift cards?"
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