The benefit of the doubt – or is it doubt without benefit these days?

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Finally, the warm weather has stopped and now it’s winter, the way it is supposed to be here in Ohio. Thick flakes have been falling to the ground all morning long and the driveway and walkway are covered with a blanket of snow.

There will be a knock on my door in about an hour and a kid will ask me if he can shovel our snow again -like yesterday. I am prepared. I already bought sandwich meat and hot chocolate and this time I even have a pack of cigarettes for him  -given to me for him by my husband. I have cash in the house and my neighbor is on stand-by.

He is actually not a kid, he is young man in his early 20’s and he is homeless. I met him in fall, when he knocked at our door and asked me if he could rake our leaves. I like everybody who offers to rake our leaves, but I really liked that kid right from the start. He spent the whole afternoon in our yard and came by the next day and worked in our neighbor’s yard. He is a hard worker, he is quiet, tries not to be a bother. 

“I can shovel snow too,” he said and I made a deal with him right then and there. He can use our snow shovel all winter long. “What if he uses the money for drugs or alcohol?” said my neighbor and I started thinking about it. I wouldn’t like it; I wouldn’t like it a bit, because I really don’t want to be drug enabler. What if he is an addict and I just feed his addiction? I came to the conclusion that I have no right to ask him what he does with his money, he earned it with his hard work. How would I react, if my customers would ask me what I do with the money they just paid me? I guess I would lift my eyebrow and would give them “The look.”

Why do we always think the worst of people anyway? When did it start, that we question anything and everything. Shouldn’t we all still believe in the good of people? I know it’s hard, I read and watch the news as well, but I although see and hear so many good and funny stories about everyday people. I think we use the phrase “Benefit of the doubt” the wrong way, we doubt and forget all about the benefit. I know I do. Yesterday he said he wanted to earn money so he could rent himself a motel room and I hope that’s what he did, but even if not, who am I to question his motive?

I don’t know his story and he doesn’t know mine. We all can fall into hardship in the blink of an eye and I haven’t forgotten how it feels, because we have been there. I haven’t forgotten how it feels when you don’t have  money; I haven’t forgotten that we bought cigarette once with all the pennies, nickles and dimes that we could come up with. Who am I to judge?

“I am afraid to let him shovel our driveway, but I could really use him,” said my neighbor. “Why are you afraid?” I wondered about that.

Turns out my neighbor was a little bit scared to have a stranger come by her house and I don’t blame her. “I have to open my screen door to pay him,” she said and I could see that she felt uneasy. She is in her 60’s and alone during the day. I feel safe, because we have big dogs, but without them I would feel the same way. 

This are real concerns these days, you never know what people will do, or how they will react. I think he is a good kid, but I don’t know him and there is nothing wrong with being cautious. 

We thought about it some more and came up with the perfect plan. We will pay and feed him in my workshop together, where we both will feel safe because of our dogs. This way he will have the money for a motel room, because it is really cold outside.

I really like this kid and I have a lot of work coming up, maybe I should consider getting a helper now and then. Let’s see how the dogs will be with him first and let’s see if he shows up. There we go again….Stop questioning him, Bridget…he will show up.

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26 thoughts on “The benefit of the doubt – or is it doubt without benefit these days?

  1. It’s a hard call, isn’t it… We have a middle aged man who has been helping out with stuff around church for probably over a year now. He was living with his sister near the church. A couple weeks ago one of the trustees realized he was living in the shed. They’re in a quandary as to know what to do because if we let him stay in the church (where we have showers, etc.) it could make our insurance void. We’re trying to find somewhere for him to live. It’s awful watching them go through all this.

  2. I think it is wonderful that you have offered this young man work. It is so much better that they are willing to work rather than just wanting a handout. More than likely, if this young man is homeless it is probably because of a mental illness. Most homeless people have mental illnesses. You’re right. Almost everyone is one paycheck away from being in the same situation. Kudos!

  3. Judging others favorably and giving the benefit of the doubt is a primary concept in Judaism. It is hard to follow often as we easily fall into the trap of assumptions about people and imagining things in our minds about others. It is wonderful you have shown kindness to this young man, and perhaps it will change his outlook. One small gesture can make a big difference Bridget. 🙂

  4. I’m at a total loss for words. Not matter what direction I go in, it would become a rant.

    I guess when I hear about a homeless young man in his 20s, I immediately picture my own sons’ faces. I picture their friends, and the sons of my friends.
    … and then it breaks my heart.

    After reading this post, my respect and affection for you increased exponentially.

  5. I totally rented out the back of our house to a single mother who’s trying to get back on her feet, and I picked her over an older, more established man who wanted a bigger apartment so he could get his cat back. I even cut the rent by $100 so she could afford the place. My neighbor thought I was nuts, but you know what? Sometimes you’ve got to be the helping hand. In less than a month, the single gal moved her boyfriend in and I wasn’t hip to that at first, but he’s working off his rent in barter (which we all agreed on) and again my neighbor thinks I’m nuts, but there’s a lot of stuff getting done around the place and like your guy, my tenant is really working hard to keep a roof over his head.

    But I wonder where this idea came from that all homeless people drink and do drugs? I was homeless for a hot minute and I never drank nor did I do drugs. Most of the working poor in this country are one paycheck away from homelessness and it honestly has nothing to do with alcohol or drug use. Most homeless people that I’m aware of are simply victims of circumstance. Change the circumstance and you change their lives.

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