If You’re Sensing a “Leave Me Alone” Vibe… It’s Not Me- It’s You

01-03-roxy
Head tucked, eyes covered = Do Not Disturb

A few weeks ago, I wrote about an uplifting experience as I began to carry out my younger son’s vision of helping the homeless.

As usually happens with my life, the “awwww, that was great moment” has turned into “awwww, what the &%$* happened??!”  Just like with my marriage, hindsight reveals exactly where I went wrong.  Yep, I know precisely why that feel-good train jumped the track and now I’m left pinned beneath a mountain of guilt, picking off the shards of good intentions stinging my skin.

Here’s what went down…

Nine days after meeting Lynn, I got a call.  They were cold, broke and needed to heat the tent I bought them.  Her husband had started work, but hadn’t gotten paid yet.  I went to them, my younger son came along since he was on winter break.  She said they had contacted churches in the area looking for a sleeping bag, but there weren’t any (I know, that was a hint… I sidestepped several along the way.)

Anyway, after buying enough propane to heat their tent for a few days, we ended up at Wal-Mart to get her a hat to keep her ears warm.  That turned into getting some hand warmers… then a sleeping bag… then a no-contract phone and a $45 one-month plan…vodka… a pack of cigarettes… and I don’t remember what else.  Afterwards, I drove them to their campsite and they showed us their tent.  I had already decided I wasn’t comfortable with how freely she asked for stuff.  As we left, she pulled me aside and asked if I would check pawn stores for an acoustic guitar she could give her husband for Christmas.

Yeah, that was it.  In that moment, the doors of the Bank of Me officially closed.

But wait, there’s more!  (My life is like a ridiculous late-night infomercial.)

Two days later, she left three “urgent” voice messages asking me to come get her.  They had stayed in a hotel the night before at $70 a night, they had to be out by 11am, they had no money and no one else to call. I didn’t call back, but did send her a text later in the day to let her know my aunt had passed away and I was dealing with family stuff so I couldn’t help her.  

A couple days later, another message.  This one, just asking about Christmas.   I sent a text back (with the photo I’d taken of her and her husband) and wished her a merry Christmas and joy in 2017.  I thought that was closure and the end of it because that picture was the only thing I promised her.

I was wrong.  I’m getting used to being wrong.

On New Year’s Eve, she sent a text asking how I was.  Again, I wished her a much better year in 2017.  She thanked me, said she was praying for me, and mentioned she was cold.  (Another hint).  She left three voice mail messages on Monday, which I did not respond to. The last one, at almost 11pm.  Then, she sent a text at 2am.  Then around lunchtime on Tuesday, she send a text asking how I was.  I finally responded several hours later that I was fine, but had a cold so I rested when I wasn’t working. I ended it with, “take care”.  She replied that she was praying for me and trying to stay warm (ah, yes, yet another hint.)

I know you’re probably wondering why I don’t just tell her to leave me alone (my best friend sure is!)  Simple… I don’t want to be mean.  I have compassion for her because her life is difficult at the moment.  I don’t wish anything bad to happen to her and truly hope things turn around in her life. It makes me sad if a stranger really is her only “go to”. My older son asked why I don’t just block her number.  Smart boy.  I’ve thought of that, but I won’t because I find human behavior fascinating, and I need to know how this plays out.

I can imagine what you must be thinking…. So you endure the harassment so you can “study” human nature?  That’s like dropping a brick on your foot to see what happens.  That’s twisted!

Yeah, it’s kind of messed up.  But, in my defense, I don’t hide the fact I’m not normal.  Not only do I find the not-so-subtle hints interesting (it’s less presumptuous to hint until someone offers rather than straight-out asking for something), I am curious about my own reactions and responses as well.

After 43 years, I know a few things about myself. Like, I will give up something so someone else doesn’t have to. Although life isn’t fair, I do my best to be fair.  I will befriend someone that no one else will, because everyone should have a friend (that has bitten me in the behind more than once.)  Often I do things I don’t want to because I’d rather take on something rather than burden someone else.

Do you see a trend here?

I do.  And I know what happens…eventually: my toilet gets full and I have to flush it. (Ironically enough, that statement came from my ex, when talking about his mother… that’s another story for another time!)

I’m realizing that like flowers attract bees, giving invites takers.  I need to know that I can be be assertive enough to communicate “I’m done” if I feel used and my hints continue to be ignored.  I must find out if I can abide by my gut feeling that she’s trying to take advantage of my kindness and not cave to guilt (because I have a roof over my head).

Most of all, I have to know that I can deliver a kind but firm “no” and not apologize for it instead of allowing myself to be a dumping ground. 

This experience has changed me in ways I didn’t anticipate, but that seems to be how God teaches.  I will continue to keep my heart and eyes open to help those in need.  However, in the future, my name will be fictitious.  And, under no circumstances, will I provide my phone number (or that of any former friends).

I may not be normal, but I’m not completely stupid, either!

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Author: findingmedaily43

I used to enjoy hiking and snapping pictures along the way. I used to have creative ideas jotted on pieces of paper stacked on my desk. I used to laugh and look forward to spending time with others. I used to write. A lot. Through this blog, I'm making an effort each day to find myself.

12 thoughts on “If You’re Sensing a “Leave Me Alone” Vibe… It’s Not Me- It’s You”

  1. In this situation, which I can easily imagine myself in, I’d contact the local shelter, homeless coalition, or assistance house. I’d tell them what I’d done, and ask what to do now. I’m thinking they would give me a name, a #, or an address to share. I’d share with this information in a Great News spirit tone, and if I’d been so instructed, ask if I could send so-and-so out to the location of the camp. What happened next would be my cue to step out, whether indifference, communicativeness, or outrage.

    Remember, you did the right thing, the kind thing. There will always be people so broken, in one way or another, who think that means you are laying down to walk on. That doesn’t make the kindness into stupidity, or the right into wrong. It just means we need to know where our ripchords are located.

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    1. Thanks for your suggestion, momsomniac. The voice mail messages and texts have continued and last night I finally told her I’ve done all I can and I hope things improve for her soon. I live in a small town so I’ve had a bit of trouble locating homeless assistance on the web, but I have some other places I will check in person, just so I have the info in the future. I already have my fake name picked out… and I won’t be giving a phone number next time!

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  2. That’s a tough situation. People try to take advantage, and while they are truly in need, and you want to help, you learn why they are in need and don’t want to enable them. It becomes a fine line between helping them and simply enabling the wrong behavior.

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  3. You are a better person than me. I would have stopped the help as soon as vodka and cigarettes became a request. I’ve helped many who have been truly grateful, but I’ve also run across many who take a mile when you offer an inch. Unfortunately, you don’t know who you’re dealing with until it begins to play out. It was after some of these episodes I stopped offering personal assistance and only contributed through group efforts. Most recently, I had a man grab my shoulder from the rear in a supermarket. He was conveniently wearing a Jesus tshirt. He explained how hungry he was and needed to eat. I opened my purse and pulled out a five. He told me “no, a twenty”. I told him a five was all I was offering and he took it and left the store. The more I though about it my memory was jogged. This same man pulled this on my hubby and I a year ago in Sears. I mentioned him to the cashier and she told me he’d been banned from the store for harassing female customers for money and promptly spent it on the Lotto machine. A manager heard us talking and came over and asked me about him and apologized. It was no fault of hers, but I do understand how sometimes they do ban people from public places…I suppose when they become a nuisance. This is the same store my husband refuses to go to because once a manger called the police on a homeless woman we’d often helped and my husband bought her a lunch and gave it to her when they kicked her out. Now, I realize she had probably been doing the same thing. Honestly, it’s a fine line to draw between helping and abetting. While I am compassionate and enjoy helping those in need, I really dislike being used.

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    1. Well, I don’t drink or smoke, but I know some do, so I was trying to be open πŸ™‚ Your stories are a bit frightening, and disheartening. I avoid giving to those who aggressively approach me, but it is unnerving and awkward to be in that situation. I’m with you on liking to help but not liking being used. I really feel like her requests of me became too much. The last message last night, she was crying that she was cold and needed me to please her. I had to respond in a text because I can’t trust myself to not cave in and do for her anyway- even though I feel like she crossed the line on requests. I didn’t get any messages today, so maybe it’s finally clear, I don’t know

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  4. People like the one you encountered give all the homeless a bad name! As a former journalist, I’ve heard of entire newspapers or TV stations taken in by somebody’s sob story, so don’t feel bad. You did the kind thing, the Christian thing. If she wasn’t honorable, that’s not on you! All that said, if I were you, I’d blow the whistle on giving her anything else. Except maybe the address of a shelter or a social services agency designed to help people in need.

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    1. I need to locate info I can give out in the future. Online, there isn’t much, but I did find a thrift store that helps the homeless so I will stop in there when I have a chance and ask some questions. She has been very persistent. I blocked her calls but she still kept leaving voice messages and texts. I’m thinking about changing my phone number.

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  5. I loved the honesty in this post. There have been times when I have wondered if I should have done more to help someone, and there have been times when I have regretted getting snared by takers. I think the uneasy feeling that I didn’t do enough is harder to shake off, but I agree it’s smart to set boundaries and protect your privacy. Take care.

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