Go and Do Likewise?

sonnie-hiles-741947-unsplash

Rusty Clifton is a longtime friend of BCC.

A couple months ago I came home from work to my wife in the front yard chatting with a lady who, by all visible measures, appeared to be homeless. I had never seen this woman before, but my wife later assured me that she was known by many people in our upper-middle-class Salt Lake City neighborhood. While my natural inclination is to avoid situations that have the potential to unnecessarily add complications to my life, my wife overflows with compassion for the oppressed and downtrodden. So that evening, after determining she was clean from drugs and not dangerous, we agreed to let her stay in our basement (it’s a mother-in-law apartment we use for guests or the occasional AirBNB) until we could help her secure more permanent housing and employment. Over the course of the next week or so we did what we could to accommodate her: secure privacy, food, shower, soft bed with fresh linens, rides to housing offices/employment interviews, and a friendly home base while she worked to get herself back on her feet.

Now, I want to point out the scenario that we crafted for ourselves. It was perfect. Here I am, a self-professed Christian who has all sorts of smart things to say in Sunday School about Jesus’ teachings, so many of which are about helping others. Meat for the hungered and drink for the thirsty? Check. She’s the least of these, right? “Who is our neighbor?” This homeless stranger who appears out of nowhere, that’s who! You’ve heard of the Good Samaritan, I’ll show you a GREAT Samaritan!

Meanwhile, no progress was being made on the housing/employment front and she was becoming more and more comfortable with us and her new situation. The interactions of the next couple weeks looked like this:

  • She always expressed her gratitude
  • She often hung out in our back yard for her meditations and relaxation
  • We had many conversations in our main house, many over meals
  • She was always kind to our kids, except the time she told my daughter about the evils of any religion that would prohibit wine
  • Because of an AirBNB guest, she moved to our loft (over our garage), which meant she now had to regularly let herself into our home to use the bathroom/kitchen
  • She began to regularly let herself to our food and linger for extended periods of time in the house
  • When my wife pushed for her to again try working with the housing office, she indicated that “this” (living with us) was all she needed
  • She crossed more boundaries. Never anything dangerous, but things we certainly didn’t sign up for

As her willingness to secure housing/employment faded, so did our patience. It was becoming very clear that we weren’t the gap-filler we thought we were, but rather her long-term solution with no end in sight. I mean, the Good Samaritan just had to help a guy up, give him some band-aids, some water and threw a little money at the innkeeper to finish the job. After a couple hours of work and a little coin, he was on his merry way with an attaboy from Jesus. If I’m comparing the situations, “going and doing likewise” sounds like a Saturday morning stroll on my way to pick up doughnuts.

So we kicked her out.

Not in a mean way. We gave her a couple more days to figure out her next steps and promised to continue helping find permanent housing/employment. But of course she’s now back on the street. Sleeping on the hard ground. Wondering from where her next meal will come. In other words no better off than she was before she met us. All the while we’re in our warm house with extra space and full bellies.

We seem to be Good-But-With-A-Time-Limit Samaritans.

I’ve told some friends about this experience and my continued inner struggle and the almost universal reply is one of two things, either hey at least you tried which is more than they’d have done, or something about free agency and statistics of the mental health of the homeless. But if we take the teachings of Christ seriously, I think these justifications miss the point of His intent. Jesus didn’t say try, but once you get uncomfortable it’s okay to stop. In fact, I read most of His teachings as the opposite: we are SUPPOSED to be uncomfortable. If we believe that He is in the business of transforming us into new beings then we should expect pain and discomfort in that transition.

Henry B. Eyring said that “the Spirit will comfort you when you may wonder, ‘Did I do enough?’” which is true, I have felt comforted in my wondering. But I don’t know if I’ll ever be fully comfortable with my answer.

Photo of generic AirBNB by Sonnie Hiles on Unsplash

Comments

  1. I am not qualified enough to help a person out of homelessness but I am comfortable enough to give resources to community agencies that are qualified. And I know where those agencies are.

  2. the almost universal reply is one of two things

    I reckon there’s a third option—lobby one’s elected officials for the establishment of a robust safety net. No doubt this would cause a majority of voters sufficient pain and discomfort to have a fighting chance of undergoing a transformation.

  3. Not a Cougar says:

    Rusty, I wonder if the Savior also meant that we need to ensure we’re providing what that person needs (and, yes, I know that sounds judgmental). The man from Jericho (from what we can tell in the story) needed first aid, transportation, and palliative care. While admittedly our knowledge and understanding of what any person actually needs is imperfect, it sounds like the lady you helped needs some long-term mental health care and a stable living environment to help her overcome whatever the reasons are that she wound up homeless. I seriously doubt you are in a position to help her do both. I don’t pretend to be an expert on homelessness, but for many people, it doesn’t seem to be just about a lack of housing or ability to pay for housing, though in many cases that certainly is the case.

    Your article reminds me of a previous writer talked about his experiences on this blog (Or was it Times and Seasons?). If I recall correctly, he was an EQ president who tried to get a young man who was a member of the ward into housing and job training. It didn’t turn out well (the young man was kicked out of the housing unit for fighting and didn’t show for job training), and the writer expressed how he learned a lesson that when helping people, you provide options, but ensure that the person has to actually take action to help themselves. He couldn’t just solve all of that person’s problems and expect things to magically get better.

    Then I stop and think to myself, “OK, so you think you have some insight into how the Savior wants you to help other people. What are you doing to help meet people’s needs in the way I believe the Savior wants me to do?” Honestly? Not much really. It’s far too comfortable emulating the rich young ruler.

  4. Not a Cougar says:

    *in the way you believe the Savior wants you to do?

  5. Not a Cougar says:

    Oh and change palliative to recuperative. It’s early in the morning…

  6. I’ve got to share my story from just a couple months ago. We recently did something similar in attempt to help someone with no housing, and it went very badly for us. Basically, this guy stayed at our house for a few weeks. Sometimes he insisted on paying us a bit, and then sometimes he couldn’t. We still let him stay. After he was working, we asked that he start booking the room at a very cheap rate on Airbnb as a protection to us. We agreed on a rate that he could afford. I know the Good Samaritan didn’t charge rent, but it he initially wanted to pay and he was getting free food and working, so it seemed reasonable. It was very cheap. Maybe that’s where it all went wrong? Anyways, a few weeks later, he suddenly became incredibly rude and sexist, and straight up told us that he wouldn’t be paying anymore and wouldn’t be leaving, and that in order to get him out we would have to go through the eviction process. So we did, had to go to court and everything. We did the court process as fast as we could and it still took about 6 weeks to have him removed. He stayed up until the sheriff was about to come and physically remove him. It was pretty bad.

    We feel so torn now because we love the idea of helping someone and giving of our excess. But we also don’t want to put ourselves in that situation ever again. We had no idea, and I don’t think people usually know, that if you let someone stay in your house, even for a night for free, they have some rights and usually cannot be removed by police right away. The eviction process varies by state. We did not realize how vulnerable we made ourselves by letting someone stay in our home. In the future we will probably try and pay for a motel for someone rather than put them in our home. At least in the near future. We don’t know how we will approach this going forward. And we feel bad for this guy who stayed at our house! Even though he turned out to be very difficult and mean, we do not blame him for his life situation and wish that he could have gotten himself together a little bit while staying at our house. It was tough and we are still trying to figure out where we stand.

  7. Not a Cougar: The post you’re thinking of was Michael Austin’s, three years ago: https://bycommonconsent.com/2015/05/04/daniel-my-brother-the-case-for-pastoral-training-in-the-church/

  8. A very thought-provoking post.

    In other news, is this post a harbinger of you reopening Nine Moons?

  9. Rusty, we took in a foster child, and she stayed with us for almost three years. In the end, we threw her out. She had another home to go to, one that was probably, in many ways, a better place for her. And her dealing with her presence in our home, compounded with many other things, caused enormous pain to all of us. And yet…she came to us broken, abused, angry, and desperately in need. We had promised her that she would be safe at our home; that we would never treat her as her other caregivers had. We broke that promise; we failed. I have confidence that God’s grace will forgive us for this terrible failure, just as I have confidence that God loves and will forgive our former foster child for all the abuse she in turn dished out on everyone around her, but it does not change the fact that, in my mind at least, our choice was a failure. Thank God for the atonement, because we’re all damned down here anyway. Best wishes in dealing with your discomfort and dissonance; believe me, at lot of us have been there as well.

  10. the other side of the sun says:

    You were a fool to take her in the first place.

  11. I think it’s pretty incredible that you tried. I just couldn’t allow a homeless drifter into my home after the Smart family’s experience. Ed Smart did exactly as one should by treating homeless people with dignity and hiring them for odd jobs and his daughter paid a terrible price. I hope to help homeless people where they are, but you can just never tell what is in a person’s heart and I wouldn’t expose my kids to it.

  12. Not a Cougar says:

    Thanks Carolyn!

  13. Mary Lou,
    That’s fair. And perhaps that is what the innkeeper represents in Christ’s parable. My struggle with that is if my only role is to give money to others to fix the problem I don’t know if I’m fully grasping the lesson Christ is teaching. I never want to be the type of person who relies on money to solve all of my problems, especially those that have the potential to interfere with my character (i.e. being a good dad, being a hard worker, interaction with those in difficult circumstances, etc.).

    Peterllc,
    Yes, a robust safety net is absolutely necessary, full stop. Though I wonder how many people would still find themselves outside of it, whether through their own choices or other circumstances. There are resources here in SLC for people in this woman’s position, we tried to get her to take advantage of them, and yet she refused. That’s not a judgement of her, just a recognition that different people have different needs, both physical and psychological, and I don’t know if any safety net, no matter how big, can catch everyone.

    Not a Cougar,
    Thanks for your thoughtful response. As you say, comfort is too high of a value of ours, sadly.

    Factofinequality,
    That’s a crazy story. Someone warned me of that (squatters’ rights) after we had put ourselves in that position. Luckily we never had to deal with it. But I appreciate your attitude, that it didn’t make you jaded. We are still struggling with where we stand as well.

    Jimbob,
    HA! Not likely, but I appreciate that you remember the ole’ blog. Maybe some more guest-posts here on BCC…

    Russell,
    Thanks for that story and your thoughts. Seeing people struggle with trying to do good is a source of great inspiration for me. I don’t want to hear that it’s easy to do good, because in most places where it’s important, it’s NOT easy.

    The other side of the sun,
    Thanks. Helpful.

    Mormom,
    The safety issue is a real thing, one I didn’t really want to get into in this post and therefore glossed over it in a single sentence. We assessed what we knew and what we could tell and made a judgement call and luckily it was never an issue. But yes, it certainly could have.

  14. Tough situation. Maybe this is just more proof that quite often government programs offer better solutions than individual charity. No, they’re not perfect, but they often have built-in mechanisms to prevent the sort of abuse this sort of generosity invites. Now, what it the needy person is one of your adult children and treats you the same way this homeless woman did?

  15. I’ve been there as well and unfortunately the gratefulness turned to entitlement so quickly I missed all the signs. Once the lying started it became clear and after cutting them off the anger and spite directed at me was HUGE! It was now my fault that they were in the position they were in. Yes there is substance abuse to blame but also, somewhere along the way, there is a cognitive error in their thinking that persists. Most of us have biases or errors in logic that affect our decisions at times but this seemed to be a more basic error that most of us learn as children to overcome. Along with treatment for addictions and job skill training I believe any comprehensive rehab program also needs to address this error in how we/they are processing thoughts.

  16. Similar situation right now in fact. Have an extra bedroom and are charging a fair but low rent compared to market rates, but at the expense of our comfort. Meanwhile hoping our short term renter doesn’t get too comfortable.

  17. I don’t know if any safety net, no matter how big, can catch everyone.

    Experience shows that it won’t, and there’s a place for private charities even in Europe’s social welfare states, but I remain convinced that there is untapped potential for systematic, public approaches in addressing the manifold expressions of poverty in the US. This shouldn’t be a largely uncoordinated task left to private individuals to solve.

  18. I’m a firm believer that you let people do what they want. So… want to live on the street, fine. Want to work like mad to put money in a 401k, fine. Want to work just enough to pay property taxes to continue living in your electric/plumbing-less house and spend all day on the banks of the river fishing (happiest people I ever met btw), fine. Want to walk across the US, fine. Want to spend your time on your couch, fine.

    We need to get used to the idea that just because people don’t want to do what we do, doesn’t make their choices wrong. She was content living comfortably on someone else’s dime, and would rather not work to maintain it herself, fine. You were willing to let her, fine. Then you stopped being willing, fine. Just because most of society values money/houses/comforts, doesn’t mean it should deride those who want to live a different lifestyle. Nothing immoral/wrong with living like that.

    Good on you for doing what you did.

  19. We had a very similar experience recently with a relative. The boundaries got pushed and pushed and the stay was much longer than promised. Once the situation became physically dangerous for us we kicked him out. We now have a “sorry no house guests” policy. I don’t think I feel a bit guilty about it. Just mad that I let it happen in the first place.

  20. “She was content living comfortably on someone else’s dime, and would rather not work to maintain it herself, fine.” Sorry jaxjensen, I do think that is wrong. Taking advantage of other people is wrong.

  21. Deborah Christensen says:

    Nurse here. I work in Seattle and interact with the homeless on a weekly if not daily basis in my job. If a person is living on the streets there is definitely a mental health issue that is beyond just letting them into your home and helping them. It was noble that you tried to help this lady but she has more problems. However most people who are homeless are not sleeping on the streets or panhandling for assistance. They are working with a mix of private charity organizations and the government to fix their situation. I recommend volunteering with the charity organizations as they usually have social workers and experts. Our system is partially set up this way to protect us (the givers) and to respect the dignity of the homeless person. No one wants to be a “project”.

  22. It would be wrong if they weren’t willing. Some kind of scam/fraud/lying would be wrong. There is nothing wrong with letting willing people pay for your care. From the OP it sounds like as soon as they weren’t willing any longer that she left amicably. And it is perfectly fine for them to not be okay providing for her permanently. Nothing immoral in either of those positions IMO.

  23. Oh man, this is a conundrum. We’ve had people living temporarily in our house several times (in order for them to get back on their feet), and we’ve never had a bad situation. But we’ve never invited somebody in from straight off the street. In every situation, it was clear that staying with us was not their first choice and that they wouldn’t want to stay.

    When people really fall that low, a little bit of help is rarely enough. And yet, we can’t fool ourselves by thinking we can fix their problems, especially if we find ourselves wanting to restrict their agency. The way I read Mosiah 4 isn’t that Benjamin’s saying beggars never deserve their circumstances, only that we can’t use their choices to justify withholding aid. And I also don’t think Benjamin was expecting for us to continually do things for people that they can do themselves. That doesn’t really help anybody.

    The problem is that there truly are a lot of people who simply cannot take care of themselves, for various reasons, including mental illness. I wrote about some of my experiences here (https://wheatandtares.org/2017/10/26/struggling-to-succor/). I still don’t really have any answers.

  24. Oh, and I second Deborah’s comment.

  25. Here’s the problem, one cannot tell which people can be helped and which will take advantage of the kindness of others. My husband abandoned me almost at the age of 60. After years of financial instability he found another woman who would let him into her home pay all the bills. It is called romantic fraud. My Bishop found a family who would take me in. I have lived with them for four years. I pay $300.00 a month for a bedroom when the going rate is 4-500.00. How grateful I am for this family who has taken me in. I work in the school district and receive low wages without benefits. I am doing the best I can to stay independent, but I could not do it without the help of this kind family. They trust me, I keep out of their way and business as much as I can, yet still have friendly conversations together in the kitchen. They took a chance on me. I am not your normal homeless person and needed a break after being abandoned. “I was a stranger and they took me in”. Humbly grateful.

  26. D Christian Harrison says:

    Barb: <3

  27. D Christian Harrison says:

    I third Deborah’s comment.

  28. Kristin Brown says:

    “And there were no poor among them”…it makes me wonder how Enoch accomplished what he did. Wish we had more of the details.

  29. “And I also don’t think Benjamin was expecting for us to continually do things for people that they can do themselves.”

    This sentiment I see a lot, even more when you replace Benjamin with Jesus. I’m reminded of Jesus saying that is someone sues you for your cloak, give your coat also, but I don’t know where the line should be, but I do know there’s no mention in the scriptures of “undeserving poor”

  30. I like what Deborah Christensen said. It seems to fit with what King Benjamin said after his instructions on caring for the poor/needy: do all these things in wisdom and order.

  31. Let me pose a “hypothetical” situation. Assume a family member shows up at your house uninvited. Roughly 40 years of age. Hasn’t worked any substantive job in years. Has a degree in a profession with high demand. Has been living on the street. Spends time trying to get investors for schemes that are, at best, questionable. What would you do??

  32. Rusty, I believe the solution, albeit an imperfect one, lies in striking a balance between doing nothing more than giving money to relief agencies and a literal application of the Savior’s injunction (i.e., that we should provide direct, personal assistant to everyone in need that we encounter, to the extent of our resources). We do not live in Christ’s world; therefore, I suspect the advice he would give us would be a bit different.

    As you and others have noted, certain situations are best handled by trained professionals who we can support by providing monetary assistance to the charitable organizations they work for. On the other hand, there are numerous instances where we can assist friends, neighbors and family members—and even strangers—who experience an unexpected misfortune that falls within our wheelhouse.

    Admittedly, correctly analyzing the situations we all encounter is frequently not easy, and we always take a risk when we elect to become personally involved in the life of another. Witness Russell’s experience as a foster parent. Though (at the risk of being terribly presumptuous) I don’t think he regrets his decision to take a chance on that girl and I suspect he is being much too hard on himself, there is always the possibility that our reach will exceed our grasp. But if you do sincerely try and the end result of your efforts proves disappointing (as was the case for Russell and you), I’m confident the Lord will be pleased that you at least made a concerted effort, unlike many of the rest of us (including me).

  33. Steve poses a great question. When it is a family member the choice is even harder, especially when they continue to return. I saw my brother-in-laws spend hundreds to thousands of dollars on a brother who continued to ask for financial aide. After 20 years one brother said “enough, no more”. The other brother continued to bail the brother out. Which one did the right thing?

  34. Kevin Barney says:

    Is Salt Lake City no longer putting homeless in apartments? It was an innovative program, but it has been a few years since I read about it, and i’m Curious what happened to it.

  35. Can’tsleepnow says:

    The parable of the Good Samaritan is unique to Luke in the gospels. Luke spent much time with Paul and heard the gospel taught perhaps through that lens. Seems to be more at play in the parable than just a simple moral about strangers and neighbors, although it is a response to that question. Reading the Samaritan directly as Jesus in the parable informs more than the just that the priest and Levite were perhaps indifferent but that they were not capable of binding any wounds, they did not have the wine or oil, nor did the have a beast upon which the broken traveler coming from above sea level to below sea level to Jericho could have ridden on. We are not Samaritans, we too have been overtaken by thieves, we know where the oil and wine are and maybe conceptually who can heal fellow travelers but we can’t really do that anymore than the priest or Levite. The innkeeper seems to be more of our lot helping as best we can til the Samaritan comes back. Don’t be too hard on yo self Rusty :-)

  36. Remember the Smart family. Don’t take strangers into your home. I get wanting to help. I get wanting to follow Christ. But as someone else said—several people, actually—if someone’s on the street, they have issues the average citizen in not equipped to handle.

  37. Witness Russell’s experience as a foster parent. Though (at the risk of being terribly presumptuous) I don’t think he regrets his decision to take a chance on that girl…

    It’s complicated. There are members of the family who do greatly regret having ever brought her into our home, and there are family members who still feel it was the right thing to do. I am, mostly, in the latter group, though there are multiple things I wish we’d chosen to do differently from the very beginning. I sometimes am able to persuade myself–and this is a point which the family which took her in after we threw her out has made to me regularly–that her three years with us provided her with a much needed foundation, and that the healing she seems to have been able to achieve since she left us has been due, to a great extent, to our efforts, so we should have no regrets over how it started and how it ended and move on, emotionally. But other times I am haunted by the ugly betrayal of packing all her stuff up and telling her she no longer had a home with us, and the way that brought up in her once again, after years of security, all the ways she had been hurt and abandoned before, and I can only think of the immense wrong that represented. (The fact that she had also betrayed us in many ways is, as far as I am concerned, no excuse for what we did to her; it was driven by a desperation to save our marriage and our family from a pain that had reached the breaking point, true, but that does not mitigate the fact that, to my mind, throwing her out was a sin against another human being, one that God loves and that we are called to love as well.)

    …and I suspect he is being much too hard on himself

    Perhaps. My personal theology is more Lutheran than traditional Mormon, and probably a somewhat twisted Lutheranism at that. I see nothing illogical or contrary to scripture to assume that God commands us to act as He would act, with complete love towards others, and if doing so put us in impossible situations, well, I guess that’s what living in a broken and fallen world gets us. God will forgive us of all our failures, but He has not made a world, I think, where our failures are not, in reality, in His eyes, accounted as failures, simply because we lacked this training or that resource or this amount of time or because we were protecting others or ourselves from further harm or just being cautious or etc,. etc., etc. If there are those in need, we are, I think, under command to provide succor to them, period, no ifs, ands, or buts. If that means that every single day that I am not spending all my time and resources at The Lord’s Diner here in Wichita serving the homeless I am, therefore, failing God’s command, well, again, yeah: I think that’s the point. Living a Christlike life in a broken world is both, I think, a strict command and a constant moral impossibility–respond to one command (to love the pain-causing foster child), and you violate another (to protect a beloved spouse and children from further pain). Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Which is pretty much my personal understanding of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, for whatever that’s worth.

  38. ” Living a Christlike life in a broken world is both, I think, a strict command and a constant moral impossibility–respond to one command (to love the pain-causing foster child), and you violate another (to protect a beloved spouse and children from further pain). Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

    Russell, I have often imagined the following conversation between God and Adam and Eve as they were being tossed from the garden:

    Adam: “How can we possibly consecrate all of our time, talents and wealth to the establishment of your kingdom while you are forcing us to eek out an existence ‘by the sweat of our brow’ in this ‘lone and dreary world?'” We can’t possibly do both. You’ve presented us with a paradox that has no solution!

    God: “Don’t talk to me about paradoxes! I had to choose between not giving you guys a second chance and subjecting my only begotten son to a gruesome death and the unimaginable horror of atoning for all of your stupid mistakes. And I suspect there will be more than one occasion in the future when I’ll feel like I made the wrong choice!!”

    Thanks for sharing your experience as a foster parent. I stand in awe of your willingness to take that risk and the thoughtful way you made the hard decisions presented by the circumstances you confronted and, later, reflected on the choices you made.

  39. People are homeless because they are incapable of earning/keeping enough money to pay for rent. This is usually due to mental illness, substance abuse, or both. Ergo, places with high rents have high numbers of homeless people. SLC has relatively few homeless which means this person probably had something more severe going on, although she may have kept that hidden from you. What were your suspicions? Was she drinking out there in the back yard? (Her comment about wine to your child was a red flag for me….)

  40. Eric Russell says:

    Under no circumstance would I ever bring in a homeless person or a foster child who came from troubled background. And I say that with absolute confidence that, were Jesus in my place, he would do the same.

    I won’t sermonize at length as to why that is, but briefly: a good metaphor here is the emergency oxygen drop in an airplane. I always have a knee jerk reaction when they announce that I shouldn’t place the oxygen on my child first, but the wisdom is obvious. Our home, and healthy family relationships in particular, are oxygen. When we do anything that damages that, we aren’t actually helping anyone in the long run, even if it appears as if we might be in the shortsightedness of the moment.

  41. Eric, do you wait to put the oxygen mask on your child until you a comfortably breathing, or do you only do the bare minimum of getting it on first?

  42. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Either way, once that oxygen mask is on we’re supposed to be looking around and helping others.

    But I do sympathize with the sentiment, Eric. We should do what’s best for ourselves, and our families. Everyone will have their own threshold for how they evaluate this, and can make a determination about when they are able to give assistance. We shouldn’t help others to the complete detriment of our own households. We also shouldn’t barricade the doors and keep everything to ourselves, hoarding our resources from others. So, those are the obvious extremes, and the difficulty lies in figuring out what falls in between. When there is uncertainty, some will choose to err on one side, or the other. Unfortunately, after the initial decision to help (or not) is made, circumstances often change in unanticipated ways – either our own situation, or that of the person we’re trying to help. Or, at least, more information becomes available but it’s too late to renegotiate.

  43. Jack Hughes says:

    I once allowed a troubled young person to live in our guest bedroom for several weeks. It was a complicated situation, and there were some short-term positives, but ultimately there was a severe breach of trust and it ended in forceful eviction. As an unfortunate side effect, I find myself having even less compassion for the poor than I did before. I’m completely tapped out of sympathy for people who continue to make the same bad choices over and over again. I wonder if enough people being burned for trying to do the right thing does long-term harm to the cause of helping the poor and needy.

  44. I once was the troubled young person living on a couch for three months. I’m sure I was frustrating to the family I lived with, hanging about with no job and being depressed more often than not. I’m glad for the patience and tolerance shown me in the time it took me to climb out of the depression and get a job and place of my own.

    I just wanted to point out that it’s hard to judge who might be “worthy” of our help until we actually try. If we don’t try, thinking that it’d be too much for us to handle if they turned out to be an axe murderer, we would be missing out on giving those people the boost they needed to get back on their feet. We need more stories of people who were the Samaritan, not just of those we tried to help who turned out to be more than we could give.

  45. Eric Russell says:

    Frank, I think that speaks to the very limited usefulness of the metaphor here rather than my point, but to continue with it anyway: putting the oxygen on isn’t a one time thing, it needs to stay on. And the oxygen isn’t comfort, it’s healthiness – physically, emotionally, mentally, relationally.

    I’m saying, in other words, that I think practical moral questions should be addressed with a utilitarian lens. If a given good action incurs more collateral damage that its immediate good, it’s not worth it. And I think damage to mental health and relationships are real and something that’s often overlooked when confronted with immediate moral dilemmas.

  46. I think you can look at this as a type of rest:

    You rose to the occasion and offered help. You pass.

    She saw the hand extended and didn’t grasp it the way it was meant to be grasped. She failed. But that’s okay because God still loves her and will extend his hand her again.

  47. Forgive my many typos. I typed this one handed while holding a 2-year-old.

  48. Kenzie Zaitzeff says:

    I had a similar experience with special education. I had a woman in a ward who has a daughter with special needs, I offered to take the girl on occasional Girls days to give Mom a break.

    It turned into her expecting me to provide free child care as often as possible, for me to provide transportation for the family, buy Christmas gifts for every child in the family, etc.

    I had this guilt of being a bad Christian. But then I realized doing what you think is best may not make that person happy. Self Reliance is an important skill, and when you take that away and solve everything / do everything you cause harm. You cause long term harm.

    The Lord does not feel sorry when he denies us blessings. So I had to set boundaries and hold them. The woman ghosted me the second she relaized the free things were over. I have tried calling and reaching out and being friends.

    I’ve learned it is okay to set boundaries, and hold expectaions, and be very verbally honest about limits. At the end of the day you want people to be able to access resources to help their families and themselves. And we should advocate to make those recourses available.

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