Towards the end of our recent vacation the partner and I stopped by at a gas station to fill the tank since it was time to return the rental car. There, at almost 10 PM at night, was a young man. He approached the partner as he (the partner) was finishing up and asked if we would mind paying for a couple of gallons of gas for him because his car’s tank was empty and he wanted to get to some nearby urgently. He reassured the partner that he would show the fuel gauge indicating that the tank in his car was really running out of fuel.
The partner asked him to wait for a second and came around to ask me if it was ok with me if he went ahead and helped the young man out. I had heard the whole conversation as it was happening, and I knew that the partner wouldn’t turn the guy down. And I felt at that time that the guy had a genuine need too and said ok to the partner.
A few minutes later the partner came back after having filled a couple of gallons in the other car. And after final thank you and what not, the guy started smoking a cigarette (after offering one to the partner, as well, for all the help) we pulled out of the gas station just as another car was heading in. Once out, we were stopped at a signal. And as we were waiting there I turned around to see if the guy, with all his hurry to get to the nearby town, was leaving or not. To my surprise, he was in a conversation with that other driver trying to convince him/her too to help him out, I am sure.
We felt bad. No, the money wasn’t the matter; it was ok that we had to spend a little amount to help out someone we thought was in need. But it was the underlying deceit that bothered me. I have had a similar incident happen to me years ago when I had just moved to Boston. And since then, I usually think twice before offering a helping hand to a stranger. But I wonder if that’s good or bad. Should one or two such events dictate so strongly the answer to whether or not I should help someone who may be in real need? Or should I forget about it all and keep doing what feels right at the moment, instead of worrying about whether or not the other person’s words/actions are honest – should that matter to me?
I don’t know. I only hope I don’t become too much of a cynic, I don’t think I would like that about myself.