Nov 24 2014
Recently Fluffy and I spent a lovely week in Williamsburg, Virginia. No, we weren’t checking out the usual tourist sights. We’ve done that many times because we are residents of the state.
We have been there so many times that we mainly just use it as a place to relax for a week, prior to all of the activities of Thanksgiving and Christmas. We spent the week reading, playing on the computer, and catching up on our DVD collection.
On one afternoon we were on our way to dinner, and we were in the rear of the Cracker Barrel parking lot. We were in the handicapped parking stalls, where nobody could reasonably see us. Fluffy had wrangled my wheelchair out of the car, and I had just settled myself into it when a stranger came up to us and started his spiel.
“I am not a beggar,” he said. “I am a draftsman. I have a job. My father died last week, and I need to get back to Richmond to be at work tomorrow at 8 a.m. Our car is broken and we have run out of money. I just used my ATM card to empty my bank account, but we are still $18 short for getting the card repaired. Do you have $18 I can borrow? I’ll send it back to you in the mail when I get home.”
Fluffy and I were hesitant. We live on strict budget and $18 is a lot of money to us. Although we have been deceived before, this man looked like a good man.
Just that morning, at the timeshare where we were staying, we had told the story of how we had been taken in by one Kinja Dixon, a young man who was as smooth as butter and who cheated us out of several thousand dollars in a timeshare scam. He has his own website now. He retired at age 34, has written his own book and is very rich, while we, as you know, live on a limited budget.
But on the other hand, the Book of Mormon tells us to be generous to those in need. Mosiah 4:16-19 says this:
16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just –
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
19 For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
King Benjamin was a great guilt-inducer, wasn’t he?
Fluffy had exactly one twenty-dollar bill in his wallet, and he was loath to part with it. But how could we look that man in the face and not help him? We couldn’t. So Fluffy took out his wallet, gave the man $20 and our address, and sent him on his way. Then we went into the restaurant for dinner.
As we were eating, I couldn’t help but wonder why the man picked Fluffy and me, who were way over on the side of the restaurant, rather than someone who was in the front of the parking lot or on the porch sitting in the rocking chairs.
I asked Fluffy, “Do you think people are inspired by God to ask particular people for help?”
Fluffy didn’t hesitate for a minute. “Absolutely,” he said. “Don’t you remember Dick Winters from the Bonneville Ward when we lived in Salt Lake City? Fluffy then told me a story that I had pretty much forgotten.
Dick told a story in church of how he was driving home from vacation and was on his way down a particular canyon. Even though they were in no rush to get home, he kept getting the feeling that he needed to drive faster.
The feeling got stronger and stronger, and he was soon driving as fast as the speed limit and the road conditions would allow. Eventually he rounded a corner and saw a little old lady whose car had broken down. He stopped to help her. “Are you a Mormon bishop?” she asked.
“Yes.” he said.
“‘Well, it’s about time,” she said. “I prayed for a Mormon bishop to come and I thought you’d never arrive.”
It made me feel good all day that maybe — just maybe — the person who needed eighteen dollars was directed all the way to the side of the Cracker Barrel to Fluffy and me because God knew that Fluffy and I were the ones who would help him.
This reminded me of another story that I read recently. This took place a few years after the Mormon pioneers had arrived in the Salt Lake valley, and happened to a man we’ll call John Jones (okay, I don’t remember his real name).
It had been a long cold winter, and most people were running out of food. One day there was a knock on the door, and John opened it to find a stranger there. The stranger was nervous and apologetic, be he explained that they had run out of food. When the stranger had exhausted all of his options and had finally prayed about it, he was told to, “Go visit John Jones and he will help you.”
Even though John had limited food for his own family, he was happy to share what he had with the stranger. He later wrote in his journal that he went to bed that evening with an empty stomach but a full heart. He was excited that God knew him by name and trusted him to help someone else in need.
Almost daily we read somewhere about someone who makes a living through the generosity of others. There was a story just yesterday about a woman who was begging by the side the highway, but then someone saw her driving away in an expensive car. But someone once said that they were willing to be cheated 90% of the time, than to turn away that one person who was really in need.
We still don’t know if the $20 will arrive in the mail or not, but that really doesn’t matter. It’s worth more than that to know that God sometimes trusts us to be His angels when others of His children need assistance on the pathway of life.