Friday, December 10, 2010

Life’s Re-Occurring Dilemma’s

I was getting out of my car at a service station the other day when a guy carrying a gas can came up to me and asked if I could give him some gas.
I’d had many of these requests in the past. It’s always an uncomfortable situation because it’s hard to know if the guy really just needs some gas to get somewhere, or if he’s running a scam to collect money.

I think the dilemma, for me, is that soliciting gas at a gas station is kind of like someone asking you for money at an ATM machine. It makes perfect sense for the asker (there’s gas available at the gas station, and there’s money available at the ATM machine), but it’s pretty off-putting for the person being solicited. It puts you on the spot. It makes you feel like you don’t really have the option of not giving. After all, you’re filling your tank, so what’s the big deal about donating another gallon of gas to somebody else?

Having been driving for seven hours straight, tired, and pre-occupied, I simply said to the guy “Not today”, and he quietly walked away to ask somebody else. There were no bad vibes, there was no further interaction, and I don’t think he put any more weight on the exchange than I did at the time.

But while I was pumping my gas I thought about the guy, the way he approached me, the look in his eye. I also thought about my response to him. I was not dismissive of him, or rude, I just didn’t give him any gas. I wondered what had made me arrive at my decision. I really didn’t know. But I could afford a gallon of gas for him, and it bothered me that I didn’t give him some.

It is practically built into our DNA to make determinations about whether or not someone is ‘deserving’ of our attention, charity, kindness or time. And it’s especially easy to do when we don’t actually know them. I had no conscious reason to not give the guy some gas, so I guess I may have unconsciously determined him to be unworthy of my contribution, for whatever reason.
And that’s what bothered me.

I don’t want to think that about myself.
And I don’t want to think that about him either.

I’d lost sight of the guy, and went to find him to give him some gas,
but he was gone.

We need to take care of each other.