Giving and Receiving

I've been approached so many times by people with their stories of being stranded with a broken-down car. Over the years I've swung back and forth in my responses to people with stories. I've listened and then declined giving money, I've given money, I've bought meals, I've walked away quickly. Sometimes I feel compelled to give, and sometimes I feel like I have nothing to give. It's so strange to be in this position now; stranded for a couple of days in Santa Cruz while our van is fixed.

One time, when I was feeling particularly convicted about giving to people, an Inuit man sat beside me at the Greyhound Station in Vancouver. He told me all about how he was down from the Yukon Territories with no way to get back, how he was selling authentic Inuit jewelry that he had made so he could earn enough money to get back home. For fifteen dollars I bought a necklace from him that was shaped like a whale's tail, and felt happy that I could help him by buying his art. Chinua never liked it. He said it looked like a hood ornament. I stopped wearing it, and then one day I decided to put it back on and I saw some small writing that I had never noticed on the back. I looked closer. It said: MADE IN MEXICO. Sucker!

One time I saw an elderly man in San Francisco, standing outside the Metreon theatre with a cup, asking for change. Something about the way he stood there and was so incredibly tall and quiet, while people streamed around him without even looking at him, caused me to walk over and put five dollars in his cup. I stood there a while longer, waiting for my superstar husband to come with the car to get me and newborn YaYa (I couldn't hang with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind--walked out, but that's a different story) and I watched him immediately walk across the street and into a Liquor Store. Sucker!

But it's interesting, because Jesus made it clear that we should give to people who have no hope of being able to give back to us. This gets to me in several ways. One is that I always want to pay people back. I don't want to be a "taker", I want to return meal for meal. Sometimes, because of a traveling lifestyle, I feel like I'm on the receiving end too much and all I want to do is somehow repay everything I've received. On the other hand, my life is filled with people who have had their lives changed by receiving from others who have given sacrificially. My question is, will I give even if it doesn't change anyone's life? What if the guy I give to walks away and buys some Jack Daniels with the money that I barely could spare?

Or really, will I receive help when I have no way of repaying the favor? This is about love, after all, not banking. The mechanic's wife gave us a ride yesterday, some good friends are letting us stay in their home. My parents have Kid A and YaYa with them (which was kind of an accident--they drove home together, but we thought we'd be right behind them) and they've given us so much that we won't ever be able to repay until they are toothless and senile, cooking napkins in the toaster in our house. I want to be able to control everything more than this. I want to be on the other side. God knows the lessons I need to learn, I guess, and he teaches me through things like this.