I just read about the post about falling for a scam at a bank, and wanted to share a story with a different kind of ending.
I was coming out of Costco, back when it was new and not a zoo. the parking lot was relatively empty, and this older guy was wandering around looking rather anxious, a bit confused and as if they were looking for something. I asked him if he was ok, and he said he was supposed to meet his pastor and was getting panicky because he’s afraid he missed him and doesn’t have a car to the church. I dig in some more, and turns out, at least according to his storythat his pastor was going to give him some rent money before his family gets evicted from their apartment.
Yeah, sounds pretty obvious scam, right, except he never asked me for help and really didn’t volunteer much. I sense some shame, definitely humility, and plenty of fear. I dug in a bit more and found out what church; I know the place, it’s 5 miles down the road. Figure out where he lives, and yep it’s definitely the low cost part of town and there’s plenty of subsidized housing there. So I offer him a ride to the church to see if we can catch his pastor. He hops in and is immediately profusely thanking me, like in a way that only people who really need help can.
We get to the church; it’s empty, locked, not a car in sight. Fella starts crying on the spot. Now folks, we’ve all seen children cry, but when a grown man cries in desperation it’s something completely different. Not crying in physical pain, but sheer desperation and loss and not knowing what to do. Outside of funerals and the military I’ve only seen this when I was volunteering in shelters, kitchens and clinics in my youth. So at this point either this guy has con game that deserves to be rewarded, or he’s in genuine trouble for his family. Find out he only needs a couple hundred (it’s been over ten years, but I think it was around the 300 range) dollars, so I get some cash and drive him to his apartment back in town. the whole time the guy’s genuinely just gushing the most sincerest relief and thanks, when we get to his apartment his wife comes out crying with thanks. Absolutely no doubt in my mind I helped them prevent eviction and hopefully at least get stable, if just for another month.
So anyhow, I guess the lesson is sometimes people really do need help, but it seems to me that the ones who need is the most are often the most reticent to ask and yes, of course you need to be very careful. In this case, they weren’t approaching anyone, I approached them, they didn’t volunteer a story I had to draw out the details of what was going on, and they voluntarily took me to their house, I didn’t simply hand over cash.