I will tell you a story and want your input. It is true although I may have overreacted. I was driving from the college where I was teaching a night class back to my home. The college is in Tampa and my home is in Winter Haven, Florida.
I take I 4 and it is about twenty five miles. About five miles into the journey I see a man, about forty hitchhiking on the side of the road. I normally do not like to pick up hitch hikers but I did. He asked for a lift to Lake Land about ten miles down the road.
I thought I was doing a good deed. He asked me a few questions which for some reason I felt uncomfortable answering. All of a sudden he was an inquisitor and I felt I was under pressure to respond.
I mentioned I was a professor. Now I am a male so I was not afraid of him in some ways. But then he said, “Boy am I hungry”
I could see there was a McDonald’s up the road and got off. I do not know why but I felt unsafe. Just a feeling. The hair on the back of my bald head was sticking up. I pulled up to the McDonald’s and saw there was a line of cars at the pickup window so I parked handed him a ten spot and told him to go in and get us some hamburgers, fries and a couple of cokes. He was pleased as punch and went inside.
I do not know why. Maybe I was not really hungry at ten at night. Maybe I did not want a greasy burger. But I do know I did not want this stranger back in my car questioning me, eating greasy hamburgers, and in the back of my mind asking for some more money. I assume it was my paranoia and I let it get the better of me.
As soon as he entered the place I peeled off and got back on the road, leaving him with the money, food, and the idea that he won something.
Was I nuts? What would you have done?
Now for some reflection by me. Some of you wrote I did the right thing. Mercy restrained. Go with your gut.
We have the compassion element. But then we take chances. How many times has the United States been faced with the same dilemma? A tsunami rips through the Pacific. Over a hundred thousand dead and many left homeless and hungry. And what does the United States do? It does something extraordinary. It reaches into its pockets and send tons of food and clothes and money to the victims. We do that and do not expect a thank you. We do it for people who will never know who we are. That is the essence of an American.
And yet the goodness goes awry. Money is stolen, packages disappear, and food is spoiled in the sun awaiting delivery while people argue over how to deliver it.
If it only happened once. But it happens over and over again. And yet the people of the United States go on and do it again. They see the eyes of the hungry and they cry. They give and then give more even though they know only some gets to the needy. And the needy sometimes turn on us. They join the enemy. Not all, but some.
And so would I do it again. Would I pick up a hitchhiker in the rain, soaked to the skin and would I give him a lift? Afraid I have not learned my lesson.
I too would give it another chance. Someone out there needs a break and will not abuse it. That is our nature and that makes us what we are.
Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. But in the end at least we tried and that is the essence of doing a good deed.