Mar 20 2013

Griftin’ and griftin’

“Excuse me, sir, but I’m from Atlanta, Georgia, and my ex-wife passed away and I’m on my way to Omaha, Nebraska to pick up my girls and I need some gas and they kicked me out of that gas station over there so if you could spare some gas….”

Look, buddy, I guess you think people out in the sticks are easy and gullible. It’s really pretty easy to spot a grifter:

  1. They call you ‘sir,’ –an appeal to pride.
  2. They have this impossibly terrible situation that involves the welfare of children, –an appeal to sympathy. My favorite is the one where the guy has run out of gas and he had to leave his kids in the car with the doors locked while he went to get some gas. My pastor’s favorite is the one where the guy came by the church looking for money to feed his kids–twice. The first time he claimed to have 5 kids, and the second time he claimed to have 3 kids. Apparently he used this ploy so much that he forgot who he used it on. When my pastor asked him what happened to the other 2 kids, and informed him that he had already tried this one–he didn’t want to talk about it anymore and left.
  3. They claim to want gas or food, but the fact is they really just want money.

So get back in your ginormous SUV with large chrome rims and low-profile tires and quit trying to bum money from a guy about to drive an hour to work in a 17 year old beat up Chrysler.

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Aug 24 2010

“There’s a guy outside…

Church was over and Tim came and got me and Rob.

“There’s a guy outside and he says he wants to talk to a ‘church leader.'”

Rob and I look at each other and go outside. The guy is tall and thick-built, middle-aged. He has a medium-sized brown and white dog.

“I drove out here from St. Louis looking for work….”

It’s a long story and haltingly told, he said, because he was so tired and lethargic. He said he had work lined up, he was just waiting for a callback. He had panhandled enough money for gas, but he had nothing to eat.

Our church doesn’t have a food pantry, but Rob and I said we would check the kitchen and see what we could find. We found some leftovers from breakfast the day before: biscuits, bacon, sausage, homemade apple spice cake, orange juice. We cut the biscuits and heated them up with the bacon and sausage, and put everything in a grocery bag with a tract and a couple of cold bottled waters, some napkins, jelly, and utensils. One of my students included some donuts he purchased that morning. Finally we poured him some hot coffee from our inter-service carafe. It wasn’t fine dining, but it was fresh and hot.

Mr. St. Louis didn’t seem very happy and quickly left. He refused the coffee so I enjoyed that myself. Within a couple of minutes Rob was back in the kitchen–with the bag of food. Apparently as he walked back to his van St. Louis had said bitterly:

“Thanks for the leftovers. Hope there’s no mold on them!”

He had left the whole bag on the sidewalk. He didn’t even take the non-leftover bottled waters.

Of course we had realized that he might have been expecting us to give him money, but, on the other hand, there have been people who passed through professing hunger who were only looking for something to eat–and who never asked for a dime.

Still, St. Louis’s unabashed rudeness was kind of a surprise. I mean, it’s one thing to try to grift a small church, but it’s another thing to act indignant when they don’t fall for your grift. Of course, if you are willing to grift a church, there’s probably a very short list of things that are beneath you (though, apparently, eating leftovers is on that list).

It would be easy to say that in the future we just tell people who show up at church for purposes other than worship to hit the road, but we’re not going to let the occasional thief keep us from giving to others in need.

The whole experience still kind of irked me even after we went home for lunch.

And ate leftovers.

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