Snookered. That’s how I felt three seconds after I handed five dollars to a young woman standing at the transit station who told me she was raising money for Feed My Starving Children.
I was distracted. I was trying to read the map, buy the tickets, and herd two kids to the correct side of the platform as we awaited our train when she approached.
It was Good Friday. People were on the street corners of downtown Minneapolis handing out tracts and shouting (literally) about the redemption of Jesus from the street corner. It felt she was a part of another Jesus Group initially, but as soon as I let go of my money I wondered if I was wrong.
My suspicions were confirmed when this young woman and her cronies crowded into the same train car as my children and I. I overheard enough conversation to realize that they were on their way to the Mall of America and were hopping out at various stops to scam people into giving them cash.
It burns to be scammed. I felt so stupid.
Clearly, there was something about me that marked me as a target, and that burned more than losing my money. Was it because I was a distracted mom? Was it because I look like a person who gives away money? Was it because the word “naive” seems to be invisibly tattooed across my forward and has been that way for my entire life?
I hate to be thought of as weak – and clearly she thought I was.
I considered my options on the brief train ride. I could confront this pencil thin woman-child with her crime and demand a refund. I could threaten to call the cops if she did not return my money. As tough as I may or may not be, the realization that I was in an enclosed train with my two young kids in tow held my initial desire to confront her and her posse in check.
Instead, I prayed. I prayed over this kid-who-thinks-she-is-tough, over whatever was in her past that had encouraged her to grow up into someone who would invoke my Savior’s name to scam $5 for a trip to the mall. I prayed that her current trajectory would be intersected before it was too late for her future self to be anything more than someone who took advantage and was, in turn, taken advantage of by others.
After I prayed, I let it go. Being scammed did not ruin my afternoon with my kiddos, it did not mar the memories we made weaving our way back and forth across downtown Minneapolis, and it no longer makes me burn with anger at her and with shame for myself.
And while being scammed was an excellent reminder to be smarter about the clues and the context in which I help someone out, it will not stop me from responding to another’s need in the future.
Being kind will never be viewed as powerful, as strong, or even as smart. And, occasionally, being kind gets you scammed.
But being kind changes lives in a way that the powerful, strong, and smart cannot. Being kind changes hearts.
I will help others. I will lend a hand, lend money, lend my time to lives and causes that need help. If that makes others think I am weak, then so be it. If that means that sometimes someone will take advantage of my kindness, then that is their problem, not mine.
We are mandated to love others. We are mandated to be kind to those around us. Jesus provided the example and called us to follow.
The next time you are scammed – remember that of the 10 lepers healed, only one came back to thank Jesus. (Luke 17:11)
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s law and the prophets hangs from them.” Matthew 22:34-40