Is it Becoming Harder to Help Strangers? (Part 1)

By Revival Ojedapo.

There are lots of tales of people who have gotten into trouble because they decided to help a stranger out. It is a given that one ought to take extra precaution around strangers, even when they appear to be in distress.  But, how do you differentiate between those who are really in need of help and those who are out to scam you?

At the ATM, while waiting to get your cash, it is always advised not to interact with any stranger. This is one warning you want to adhere to. However, it is possible to meet someone who’s stranded around the ATM, or maybe a beggar, and feel compelled to give. You’ll want to do this as discreetly as possible; and if you’ve just withdrawn a large sum of money, you might want to postpone altruism. This is because of people who may be lurking around with unscrupulous intentions. Many people have been robbed and seriously injured after leaving the ATM.

Aristotle said, “virtue means doing the right thing, in relation to the right person, at the right time, to the right extent, in the right manner, and for the right purpose. Thus, to give money away is quite a simple task, but for the act to be virtuous, the donor must give to the right person, for the right purpose, in the right amount, in the right manner, and at the right time”.

A less dangerous situation, but equally painful, is to meet someone who makes up a fake story to arouse you into giving them money. You’ve probably met someone who claimed to be stranded before. Maybe you decide to help them out with a little cash. It will probably cost you half your supper or something, but you feel good helping someone out. Now, imagine you meet the same person at another location, let’s say another day, telling the same story they told you to another person. You realize that they lied to you, and it is in their habit to cook up such stories in order to swindle people. Now, you may be aggrieved, giving your hard earned money to a deceitful stranger. Would that stop you from helping another stranger who claims to be in similar trouble? How would you know if they were being genuine?

There’s obviously no obligation to give out money in such a scenario. And you may rightly feel reluctant to do so. But, it is also possible that you are passing up the chance to help someone out of their distress. The decision is ultimately yours. You just need to watch out for all the clues there are to ascertain the veracity of a stranger’s plight. You can do this by analysing their story intently, without making them feel bad.

It is true that there are no limits to the help you can give. As Aristotle said, you just need to do it rightly. There are no shortage of proven organizations that would accept your token, and use it to cater for someone you may never meet, but needs the help you have to offer. For example, the United Nations has an app on PlayStore for this purpose (ShareTheMeal: Donate to Charity and Solve Hunger). Along with several other trusted charity organizations, they give you a platform to give to complete strangers without worrying about any devious intentions.

However, you’ll still meet strangers face-to-face, and it is necessary not to allow previous experiences cloud your decision. You’d surely have learnt from those experiences, and they’ll inform you. However, it will be good to consider every plight with fresh realism.

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