It was ingrained in me from a young age to help those in need. My mother often returned from an outing with a story about someone she helped. The most memorable was when she saw a young man on the side of the road looking destitute. She picked him up, brought him to McDonald’s for a meal and dropped him off at a shelter.
No one in the family thought her actions dangerous. We felt nothing but pride and respect for her. So if anyone is to blame here, it is my mother.
My tale begins with a trip to the doctor’s office. I just moved back to Oswego for the start of the school year and I had to drive the hour to Syracuse for a final examination of my wrist, which I broke earlier in the summer.
I was greeted with bad news. I could not be seen by the doctor that day due to an insurance mix-up. Upset I drove an hour only to be turned away, I stopped at a Starbucks to treat myself to some caffeine therapy.
As I was paying the parking meter, a woman in her mid-40s dressed in scrubs came bounding toward me, yelling for help. She told me she just got off her shift at the hospital and her car broke down before work. She was out of gas and needed to get back home to her kids and mother in the hospital. She asked me if I could give her a ride to the nearest gas station and give her money for gas since all of her money was tied up in hospital bills.
I was raised to be a “Good Samaritan,” so I gave her a ride. She told me how proud my mother must be of me and that the world needed more people like me. I thanked her; I was glad to help.
When we passed by the first gas station and she directed me to keep driving, I started to have doubts. She told me she needed to pay the babysitter first and directed me to a dilapidated house. I pulled up to the curb. She got out with the money I gave her for gas.
I then realized what was going on. Before I could drive away, she got back in the car. She told me to drive her to the convenience store at the end of the street and asked for more money. I was too scared to say no. She got out at the end of the road, told God to bless me over and over, then left.
I drove the car a few blocks, pulled over and wept. I was trying to be a good person and this woman played me like a fool. I was broke, yet I gave the little money I had to a cheat. I was embarrassed, disheartened and angry.
In need of comfort, I called my mother and told her what happened. She couldn’t have been more proud because I did it all out of kindness. That’s what she had been teaching me all along.