I know this is going to come off as a bit of a rant. It probably is.
In the past couple weeks, I’ve found myself in more situations than normal which required me to choose between belief or suspicion. Someone asking for help. Someone saying they already know how to use a piece of expensive equipment. In the first case, we were suspicious, then believing, then realized we should have remained suspicious, and ended the relationship. In the second case, I was believing, but was then told that because the equipment is expensive, I should’ve been suspicious and made absolutely sure that person knew how to use it.
When did we go from being “probably trustworthy” to “probably lying?”
I am often more quick to believe the best about people. Of course, that’s the nice way to say it; the more honest way to say it would probably be, “I can be pretty gullible.” It’s easy to recognize spam in your inbox–you know there is no Edith Coleman or whoever wanting to give you their entire inheritance. (Though I have wondered just how computer-virus-infected and broke someone would be if they responded to all those spam ads.) When you’re looking at a real live person in the face, though, how do you know? Especially since you can’t lump all people into the same category?
With the recent incidence of the guy asking for help, I was okay with it initially; as a one-time thing, I’m not gonna make a big deal out of it. But when he kept coming back, I started feeling quite uneasy around him. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I was scared. My husband happened to meet him during this time, and had a long chat with him, and gave him some vouchers to help out. I expressed my concerns to my husband about some the info I had overheard him sharing with this guy (the town we live in, where he works, etc.). His response was more or less, “I was praying for discernment. Where’s your faith?” Well, of course, then I not only feel guilty, but also feel like a lousy Christian in general to boot. As I said, the story ended with the guy continuing to come back, asking for more, and his story was getting sketchier and sketchier, so we finally told him no more. I haven’t heard anything since.
This story happened about 2-3 years ago, I think it was. Where I live, there’s a big festival thing that comes around every year. The city population swells by at least a million people, who are from all over the world. My then-boyfriend (now husband) was working at a booth there, and I was waiting in a parking lot to pick him up. Two African ladies approached me (I call them that because they were dark and obviously decked out in African clothes): an older lady, and a girl who looked like she was about 12. They started asking for directions to a certain destination or if I knew the way to a train station that would take them there. I didn’t, but I told them my boyfriend was coming and might know. I called him to explain, and he said he would be there in a minute. They said they were tired and asked if they could sit down, so I let them sit in my car. I got out a piece of gum, and they asked for some, too. I gave them the pack, expecting them to take one piece each, and they proceeded to keep my whole pack. They were kind of starting to get annoying when my boyfriend came. He was acting different–very professional, almost intimidating demeanor. Long story short, these ladies really had no idea where they were going. We ended up driving all over the city for at least an hour. The ladies were chattering loudly in the back, and my husband was shooting me the occasional, “You see what you’ve dragged me into?” look. He finally had to flat out command them to be quiet so he could think. A gas station map and (at least) another half-hour later, we dropped them off at their party. They thanked us over and over again. My husband told them they should be thanking me, because if it were up to him, he wouldn’t have done it. The lady was calling me her daughter and saying “God bless you” and all that. Once the coast was clear, he pretty much asked me what the heck I was thinking. I tried to explain that I was just trying to help them out and such. At this point, he told me he had heard a news bulletin just the other day that police were looking in the vicinity of the festival for a couple killers who were also female. He said for all he knew, they could’ve been the killers; the young girl (who was sitting behind him) could’ve pulled out a knife and stabbed him. Of course, I felt awful and was expecting to not have a date after all, considering all that hassle I had just put him through. Amazingly, he still wanted to hang out. Maybe that’s why we’re married now.
But you see what I mean? To fully quote Eleanor Roosevelt, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” It’s like the options are either step out on faith and possibly get burned, or keep to yourself and be safe.
Even things that you would think would be a given aren’t a given anymore. With the equipment, the person telling me this was from a reputable group. But I was told we need to be sure since the equipment is expensive. I understand making sure expensive investments are protected. Just because we’re blessed with something doesn’t mean we can be careless with it. But can we really take no one at their word anymore?
I must admit, I’ve never known a world where people can be trusted. Perhaps the closest I’ve had to that was living on seminary campus, where you’re on a hill well away from town, and all your neighbors are seminary students. Where I grew up, though, you always locked your door, and there were sections of town where you doublechecked to make sure your car door was locked. You always parked near a street light. You never picked up a hitch hiker. This is just the way things are.
But I have to say, I wish that weren’t the case. I miss the time when you would help someone on the street, because people still had some pride and wouldn’t be begging unless they were truly desperate for help. I miss the time when people kept their promises, and if they said something, you could bank on it. I miss the time when people could at least initially be trusted–when people were who they said they were.
Unfortunately, we’ll probably never know that time again; at least, not until heaven. But it does make you grateful for the bit of heaven-on-earth that can be found in people who are trustworthy.