I have a true moral dilemma on my hands. It’s a crisis between practical charity and reason. It also makes me wonder whether I am a naturally selfish person.
Here’s what happened.
Around 7:30 p.m., a phone call interrupted my NaNoWriMo work. It was my parents’ home phone, so I decided to answer. As usual, my mom freaks me out to begin the call by sounding like something may have happened to someone in the family. But, no, that wasn’t it. She was calling to ask my opinion on a woman that she and her Sunday School class have been helping.
This woman was about 30 and pregnant. She showed up at the church one day and wanted to become part of the Sunday School class and have her kids, an 11-year-old and a 6-year-old take part in church activities. Then, last week, she lost her baby at 20 weeks.
That part of the story is heartbreakingly sad, and I do feel for this family, as I feel for anyone who loses a child. I can’t imagine the pain and grief that someone would go through.
Well, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. As my mom continues to tell me about this woman, she explains that her three children all have different fathers, that the 6-year-old’s father just fled back to Mexico to avoid criminal charges, that the father of her baby was another man from a neighboring town that she also wasn’t married to. She also tells me where the family lives – in a trailer house behind a liquor store, that the woman has no job, no car (because her insurance lapsed and she was ticketed for driving without it), has multiple tattoos and is on welfare. When my mom asked the pastor about her, he said, “It really wouldn’t surprise me if she’s been involved in anything and everything.”
Now, my mom is a bleeding heart for people like this. While she’s not always that nice to her own children, she has a very strong desire to help anyone in these kind of desperate circumstances, because she grew up in a family that wasn’t completely stable (although not to this degree). But she’s not always a great judge of character – she’s a very literal person and takes what people say at face value, especially if it has anything to do with Christianity. If you make comments about “the Lord” or try to sound like you’re “seeking God,” then she will automatically believe you.
(Sidenote: The last person that she tried to help was a woman who worked at a local gas station. She lived in the local housing authority and had three children under the age of 4. My sisters, mom and I were donating and serving lunches for the children who didn’t have food to eat in the summer – a project that my mom created and that does show she has a good heart, especially for children. Her babies were literally crying because they were hungry. My mom went to the gas station, talked to the mother and got all bleeding heart for her, especially because the mother said she didn’t even have enough money to buy milk for the baby. Her philanthropic spirit only increased when she went to the woman’s apartment and saw that she had a picture of her baptism hanging on the wall. That sealed the deal for my mom. She bought groceries for this family, gathered clothes for the children and helped them — until the mother was picked up and arrested for running a prostitution ring from her home.)
To get back to the story at hand, the reason she was calling me was to ask if I would mind whether she invited this woman and her kids to spend the holidays with our family – Thanksgiving and Christmas. For Thanksgiving, I don’t care, even though I don’t trust this woman, because I won’t be there. But, is it wrong for me not to want my mom to invite this woman to their house on Christmas Day when Ducks and I will be visiting? I always make it a point, whatever my other holiday plans with the in-laws are, to be with my parents Christmas morning because my sister is still so young and I love to watch her open presents, but I feel like having this other woman and her kids there will ruin the holiday.
I’m sure something will come out to prove that she’s not genuine and is using people in the church for money before Christmas, so I’m not super concerned about it, but I am also a little concerned about my reaction to the situation. I’m not feeling a lot of sympathy to this family. I hope that people will charitably give her and her children some nice Christmas gifts and a Christmas dinner, but I just don’t want it to be WITH my family. And, I feel a little guilty about that, because it’s not very “do unto others” and I feel like I should want to be a little more kind and generous and let these people join in our holiday when they have no other family, but I just can’t want it.
Is this wrong? Give me your honest opinions.