The other day, a young man walked into the church looking for help. He spoke to our Communications Coordinator, who asked if I would speak to him. She explained a little bit about his situation to me and I agreed to take some time to have a conversation with the young man.
We sat down, did the basic introductions, and I asked him, “How can we (the church) help you today?”
With that, the young man went into a very lengthy and passionate description of his home situation and his need for help.
As I listened, I was able to detect a certain sense of desperation in his voice and his body language. He was troubled. He was in need. It was very clear that his home life is a wreck.
What struck me was how he was certain that he knew exactly what he needed to help his situation. It was very apparent what he believed he needed and that he wasn’t going to settle for anything short of his desires.
I asked him the question, “Outside of coming into the church today, have you taken any other steps to meet this need?” A question like this helps me determine whether or not a person is truly looking for “help” or a “handout”. Are you at the end of your rope or are you simply looking for a quick fix?
We have to ask questions like this because, too often, there are people who try to scam the church (and other organizations that offer help). When the church is scammed, it becomes more difficult to help those who truly need it…as we sometimes run short of assistance funds.
However, I have always taken the stance that it is better to err on the side of grace. Therefore, I am more inclined to simple provide some assistance and hope, pray, trust that those receiving will use it wisely and for appropriate uses (to buy food, gas, pay rent/utilities, and not to buy alcohol, drugs, etc).
I said to the young man, “It’s very apparent that you have decided how to fix your situation. What exactly are you hoping I can do for you today?”
He went into another lengthy and passionate description of how he just needed me to give him a certain amount of money…in cash…and that would fix his problems.
I explained to him how we are able to help those in need. I explained that what he was asking for went outside of our guidelines for assistance. I explained that we could help, but not in the ways he had spelled out.
At this point, he started to get very upset, raising his voice, and became somewhat aggressive. I patiently listened to his response.
I then offered him some options for ways our church could assist him. I explained how it was obvious that his home life was not good and that it might be best if he found a way out of that environment. I offered some information on organizations in town that could help with some temporary housing, rental assistance, and so on. That was not a very good option.
I gave an option on how I could help him with some of his expenses, but that I could not and would not give him cash. It wasn’t that I felt he would use the cash for dishonest purposes. We simply have some guidelines and I was sticking to the policy.
His response was, “Well, basically you’re telling me that you can’t help me. You’re telling me that I’m screwed and I need to go sell my body on the street in order to fix my situation.”
I asked him to slow down for a minute. I reminded him that I had offered to help him, but that I was unable to help him in the way he desired to be helped. I asked him to hear me out and let me help. I said, “I want to help you out. But you have to let me help you.”
I explained how, if he had this serious need, I could help him address those needs in a healthy manner.
It boiled down to a young man who had already decided what he needed and wasn’t open to hearing other options.
This experience got me thinking about how, too often, I am certain about what I need…and how unwilling I am to hear other options. I have been that young man. I have said, “No, that won’t do. That won’t fix my problem. What I need is this. Now, either deliver or leave me alone.”
I found myself wondering if we are truly open to letting others help us? Will you let me help you? Will I let you help me? Isn’t that sort of what the body of Christ is supposed to be about? “People helping people…It’s powerful stuff!”
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.