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The Giving Question {Part 2}

The Giving Question {Part 2}

In the first part of this story, we met Eloise, a friend to Candace, who constantly barrages Candace with requests for money. Eloise offered to make Candace and her family some soup as payment for the borrowed money. The story picks up with her daughter Rubi delivering the promised soup.

“Afternoon!” Rubi puffed onto the porch, carrying a large pot wrapped in a towel. “Here’s the soup my ma made.”

“Thank you,” Candace said. She took the pot and set it on the table.

The soup was, without argument, delicious. Tender chunks of vegetables and chicken swam in a rich broth flavored with fresh cilantro and thyme. “We’ll probably never see any of our money back, but it was very kind of Eloise to try to repay us in this way,” Candace said. “Maybe this will be the end of her begging for awhile.”

“Maybe,” John said.

“Remember how she came a lot last year, but then stopped when we started asking questions? Where did they get food then if things were so tight?”

“Good question. Maybe you should ask her.”

“She says her boyfriend lost his job. Shall I suggest that he could do some yard work for you?”

John looked skeptical. “You could, I guess. We don’t know what kind of worker he is though.”

“Well, what shall I do if she comes again?”

“For sure, I think you shouldn’t give her any more cash. I think she’s using it for food, but she’s probably also spending it on nonessentials like cookies.”

Candace’s hopes proved false when a week later, Rubi was back. Rubi saw Candace through the window and came in the screen door unannounced and uninvited.

She handed her note to Candace. Candace scanned the contents. So she wants ten dollars this time.

Candace took the rice jar from the cupboard once again. Instead of digging in the toys, Rubi busied herself with washing Candace’s baking dishes. Candace wondered at the motive, but said nothing.

 Candace handed Rubi the bag of rice and beans and told her to head home. Candace needed to start getting the children ready for church that evening. Rubi hesitated. “My teacher say we supposed to bring some tings to class, but my ma don’t have no money for dem. Scissors and glue and tings like that.”

So she’s hoping I’ll pay her since she washed my dishes. Sorry, I’m not taking the bait. You’d have to wash dishes for a whole lot longer to earn that.

“Can you think of any way to earn it?” Candace asked.

Rubi didn’t hesitate. “Nope.”

“You think about it. Talk about it with your mom. Maybe you could rake someone’s yard or something like that to earn a little money.”

Rubi was not convinced, but Candace sent her out the door.

Candace was getting ready for church when she heard Rubi calling from the porch. “Miss Candace! Miss Caaaaaandace.”

Candace finished dressing as the calling from the porch continued. “What do you need?” she asked, coming to the door.

“My ma say if we can have some chicken. Her gas is done done, so she can’t cook the beans.”

Candace considered. “How will she cook the chicken if she’s out of gas?”

Rubi shrugged. She hadn’t been prepped for this question.

“No, I’m not going to give any chicken,” Candace said. “If she doesn’t have gas to cook, you may get some of the firewood that’s stacked by the shed.”  Although gas stoves were becoming more common, many people preferred to still cook over the fire for the enhanced flavor, but no doubt it was more work.

“So you not going to give the chicken?” Rubi asked.

“No, I’m not.”

Rubi slipped out and ran toward home.

Was I being cruel? Candace always doubted herself afterward. No, I wasn’t! Rice and beans are nourishing. Beans have protein. There’s no need for them to have chicken with the meal. We don’t always have chicken ourselves!

That evening after the service had ended, Candace greeted Ella. “What do I do with this giving issue? It’s so complicated!” Candace had come to lean heavily on the wisdom of Ella, who’d been a missionary for over a decade. Few situations had dodged her experience over the years. “Why does God say so much about giving to the poor if all we do is create dependency and get them into a worse predicament?”

“I’m a little worried about you,” Ella said. “Do you dread hearing the gate open and seeing Eloise or her children?”

“Yes, I do. We went through a time when we were studying the Bible and having a good time visiting together, but this asking for money all the time wears me out.”

“I think it’s time for you to create a little distance so you can step back and evaluate how you can best help. She clearly has you wrapped around her finger and knows she can get what she wants out of you. One thing we do is only give essentials. We will give rice, beans, flour, and sugar. This thing of digging through your cupboards and asking for whatever she wants needs to stop. It’s only making you resent her. And you certainly don’t need to give her chicken.”

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“I want to help them, but I feel so stingy if I refuse them what they ask for,” Candace said.

“Does God always give you what you ask for?”

“No, I guess not.”

“Being the overindulgent parent who hands Eloise everything she wants will not help her, only make her feel like you are her greatest resource rather than her own ingenuity and healthy body.”

Candace was still pondering Ella’s words the next day as she put lunch on the table.  

“So what’s your game plan?” John asked.

“I have none,” Candace said. “But maybe it should be to pray. If I need to give like God does, I’m gonna need a whole lot more love. And I like the idea of only giving the basics: flour, sugar, rice and beans.”

“I think that’s a good policy. No money or any of the other things Eloise always seems to need.”

“AfterNOON!” The call came from the gate.

Candace shot John a desperate look. “That’s Eloise. Guess we’ll get to test our policy as soon as it’s born.”

She walked to the gate and greeted her friend.

“Miss Candace, I hate to bug you, but you my only friend.”

“What do you need?” Candace asked.

“I don’t have no food and no candle.”

“Mr. John and I talked about it, and we will give you basic food ingredients: rice, beans, flour, and sugar, but no money or anything else,” Candace said.

“You don’t have no candle?”

“No, we don’t have any. And we’ll only give basic food.”

Emotions boiled on Eloise’s face. “I don’t have enough gas to cook beans. The gas will be done before the beans are soft.”

This sounded so cut and dried when we were talking in the house. “I can give you firewood if you need it.”

The storm of emotions picked up momentum. “Can you cook da beans for me and I come pick dem up when they done?” she asked.

Candace had cooked a large pot of beans earlier, and they sat on her counter now. “I have some cooked beans I’ll give you this time,” she said. This would be like God’s mercy.

She delivered the rice and beans, feeling good about it. She had not neglected Eloise’s needs, and yet she hadn’t let Eloise totally take advantage of her.

Only moments later, there was another call. It was Rubi this time. “My ma ask if you can please give some money for candle and a few pampers for the baby.”

Candace studied the girl in front of her. Can’t she take no for an answer? Doesn’t she think I’m serious? Just what should she do? Stick to the new policy she’d just explained or show mercy? If she gave, they’d undoubtedly continue asking for anything, driving Candace to the point of burnout. Or insanity. If she didn’t give, a family would sit in the dark that night with nothing to put on the baby. This was not going to be easy.

Help me, God! She looked into Rubi’s expectant eyes, wanting so badly to do the easiest thing. But instead she shook her head. “I’m sorry. Rice, beans, flour, and sugar.”

Rubi nodded and turned, the bright bands on her the ends of her braids bouncing with her step.

Did I do the right thing? Candace watched the girl disappear around a white, dusty bend. Thank you, God for giving me the wisdom for this situation. Help me to know what’s right for the next.

Note: I wrote this story two years ago, and reading it now brings back all those insecurities Was I too harsh? Am I being legalistic? Am I truly giving as God tells Christians to give? But as I look at my relationship with "Eloise" now, I am thankful to say it is much better, and the begging has all but died out. While we still loosely follow the guideline of only giving the basics, we have not been forced to strictly hold that line like we were in this story. 

How do you handle the issue of requests for money? I'd love to hear from you.  

If you're interested in some excellent books that deal with helping the poor, I highly recommend The Other Side of the Wall by Gary Miller and Toxic Charity by Robert Lupton. (Affiliate links)

 

 

 

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The Giving Question {Part 1}

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