So today, Aynora, the younger sister, shows up at my door about 5:30. Her manner was a bit sheepish, like she had something up her sleeve, and for some reason I didn’t feel the need to offer her tea or sit down with her in the kitchen, I just invited her into the study where Will and I were watching Sesame Street. She said she’d just come from work, and I found it odd that she wasn’t going home to cook dinner for her husband and daughter. We were only having leftovers, so I couldn’t really ask her to stay for dinner (plus we’d entertained lunch guests and afternoon tea guests already!). We sat down together, chatting a bit, and I just continued mending my garden glove, wondering what was up.
About 10-15 minutes went by, and then she said, “I came without drinking,” meaning, “Why don’t you offer me a drink?” So we went into the kitchen and I poured her some juice, and then it came out.
“Can you give me 1000 T (about $10)? We don’t get paid until next Friday and my little girl doesn’t have milk to drink and I don’t have anything in the house.”
Immediately I was on my guard, and I felt the Holy Spirit telling me not to give her any cash, but to share our food with her instead. I went to the fridge and got out our last carton of milk and began pouring some of it into a plastic container for her to take home, saying all the while, “What else do you need? I have everything here—vegetables? Meat?”
She said she didn’t know what she was going to cook for dinner (by now it’s approaching 6:00), so I pulled out a packet of ground beef and some vegetables and added them to the bag. I asked if she had flour to make dough and she said no, so I pulled out my flour canister and began pouring some into another bag, making sure she had enough to make noodles for 3 people. While I’m doing this, she’s quiet, like she’s thinking.
Then I said, “We’re busy this weekend, but on Monday we can go to the bazaar together and I’ll buy you a weeks’ worth of vegetables and you can pay me back on Friday when you get paid.” Meanwhile, I’m adding a few nectarines for her little girl and asking if she has salt in her house for the dough (she did have that).
Finally, we get down to it.
“Does your husband smoke?” she asks, out of the blue.
“No,” I say.
“Well, could you still give me 1000 T?” The bulging bag of food is in front of her on the table. “My husband smokes and he wanted me to come and ask you for 1000 T to get him through this week, or else how can he cope at work, he said.”
“Absolutely not!” I felt free to say. “Tell him not to be angry, but smoking is a dirty habit and causes cancer! He has a little daughter—what if he dies of lung cancer before 40? I’m happy to give you food and anything else you need, but not money for smoking.”
Not letting it drop, “Well, do you have 1000 T?”
Genuinely not knowing how much I had in my wallet, and thinking it was probably less than 1000, I said, “No, I don’t think so. I’m sorry.” (As it turns out, I did actually have the money, but didn’t know it at the time.)
A bit sheepish, but actually looking slightly relieved that I said no (I’m not sure she enjoys her husband’s habit), she took her leave with her bag of food, and I repeated my offer to take her to the bazaar early next week. She didn’t say yes or no, just wandered out the gate.
I was left feeling quite proud of myself for not giving in to her, and also for being prepared enough to be able to give her every specific item she mentioned, plus extra. I feel so strongly that we need to be known as generous people here, but there are so many dirty vices (smoking and drinking being the biggest) that giving cash is just not a good thing to do. The thing that surprised me the most, even though I was half expecting one of the sisters to try something like this at some point, was how quickly she had come asking for money. We’ve only spent that one morning together. I couldn’t believe she actually had the cheek to try me that fast. I think it was partly urging by her husband (“Hey, go ask your foreign friend, they’ve got lots of money, I’m sure they won’t mind”) and partly immaturity that convinced her to try. I also wonder why she didn’t ask her relatives for money – maybe she was embarrassed.
My heart really does go out to her. She was telling me the other day all about how “altun” (gold) her older sister’s husband’s character was, never mentioning the character of her own husband (her sister didn’t say anything either). I wonder if she’s a bit wistful and perhaps a bit caught in the middle. Ironically, she and her husband both have jobs at the wine factory in town, and they’re the ones asking for money. The older sister and her husband are both out of work, but seem more mature and definitely too polite to stoop that low, at least not yet. Time will tell…
Our goal by God’s grace is to build a reputation of being people willing to help anyone in need to the furthest extent of our ability, but who don’t encourage evil, sinful habits and who don’t lend money without a very, very good reason. Next time this happens I want to say, “I follow Jesus, and He gave generously to everyone who asked Him, so I’m giving you this in His name.”