Last night, Tucker celebrated his First Reconciliation. We will not go into how long it has been since MY last reconciliation (don't ask Mom), but it was a good ceremony. A little reading, a little singing, then the kids lined up to have their turn. No clue what Tucker said. He had to say three Hail Marys for penance. I think he got them mostly right.
Leaving the church building, we were walking across the parking lot, and I heard a, "M'am?" I turned around and saw an unfamiliar man walking towards us. I turned my head and hurried to the car. When we got in the car, I noticed that he had sat down on the curb. I saw him try to stop the next family that came out. After I had backed the car up and was starting to leave, a van had pulled up beside him and it looked like they gave him some money. Tucker and I talked about what was going on and I said, "let's say a prayer...that that man gets what he needs." And we left.
All I could think was that here I was, leaving church, leaving First Reconciliation, and I totally ignored a person who needed help. And I hate, hate, hate being in that situation...where someone approaches you for "help." Here is my inner dialogue:
Me: (looking) PANIC!! You don't know this person! You are alone, in a darkened parking lot, with your seven year old. Keep moving.
Me: But I do have money in my purse, nothing less than a twenty.
Me: BUT WHAT COULD HE DO WHILE YOU ARE RIFLING IN YOUR PURSE FOR MONEY?!?!
Me: Oh geez, we are leaving First Reconciliation. What message is this sending. I want to be the kind of person who helps other people. He needs the money more than I do.
Me: BUT YOU CANT BE SURE OF THE DANGER FACTOR!! LOCK THE DOORS!!
And on and on and on. I get scared, then I feel guilty, then I get angry. I get angry at myself that I am scared, and I get angry at the person, who thinks it is okay to approach people in vulnerable situations (alone, in the dark, with their children, etc) to ask for help. I try to make myself feel better by reminding myself that there are plenty of agencies who DO help people who need it. There should be no need for people to panhandle in church parking lots. (And, although I am normally there during daylight hours, I have noticed several times over the past few months people waiting after mass with a sign asking for money.)
But still, I feel guilty.
I am thankful that I have a job that pays me well and gives me wonderful insurance to care for the health of my family. I am thankful for my husband and his job as well. Even though we spend more money than we should on things that are not important, we have money to do the things that we need, and we can pay our bills. We have a roof over our heads, and food on our table. We have clothes to keep us warm. We have cars to take us where we need to go. We have the mental capacity to maintain our employment and lifestyle. We have family and friends on whom we can rely. We have the ability to keep walking and not have to beg other people for money for our meal.
Whatsoever you do to the least of my people, that you do unto me.