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A Rest Area Story

I pulled off the interstate into a rest area. It was chilly and the rain was coming on strong. It was also 2:30 in the morning. I figured it was time for a nap. But first I had to answer the call of nature.

On the way back to the car, I see a guy waving and calling at me. I turned and he saw that I saw him. Too late, I acknowledged him, I thought. The unspoken and universal rules of human interaction dictate that I hear him out. Even though I knew what this is about. I knew he was going to ask me for money.

When he reached polite stranger conversation distance, about three feet from me, I looked him over. He was obviously not homeless. He had a cigarette in his right hand, and a bag of food in his left. I thought I saw baby food in the bag. Ok, so this is gonna be one of those 'I just ran out of gas stories.' I prepare my rejection face.

He is talking fast. The words are coming at me faster than I can absorb them. By the time my brain catches up, his face is full of hurt. I catch a sentence here and there:
"Cruel, heartless people around here....Get a job, he tells me. Well, I had a job, but then I lost it....Right now I am just trying to get home..... So I've been coming back here every hour, but I ain't seen anyone........My two year old daughter.....Gotta here some food into her."

"Slow down. Where is your car?" I ask him.

"It's about 1 mile near that bridge over there. My wife and kids are in the car."

"So you need money for gas? Where are you going to get gas?"

"Look, see that light over there? That's a convenience store and the guy told me he would sell me a five gallon can with gas, but he can't leave the store to help me."

This guy is good, I think. He has obviously done this before. I've heard this story before. It's an old scam. If you cared to make a study of it, I bet he would be back here next week, again out of gas, with a bag of baby food for his 2 year old daughter. He might even have a 2 year old daughter. But he is out here in the rain. That's dedication. And he sure is convincing. I look at his face again.

Man, that face is full of hurt and desperation. It's full of cynicism for the heartless human race. It's full of weariness. It's full of hope. Either that, or he is a great actor, and it's full of shit. What do I do here? I just know he is scamming me. See, I've run out of gas before. A cop came along and put a gallon of gas in the tank for me, so I could get home. It was one of the few times in my life that a cop has helped me out. But I've also run out of gas with no one around, and had to walk for miles to get help. But that was before cell phones. Does this guy not have a cell phone?

So I know he is scamming me, but I am not sure. Do I take that chance? It's late and I am tired. Do I blow him off, like I would do to one of his lesser-skilled brethen, or do I help him? Do I want to take the chance that he is for real and that I turned away another human being in need?

I gave him four dollars. I just didn't want to take the chance that he was for real. I bought piece of mind for four dollars. I didn't want to sit in my car and wonder, what if he was for real? Of course, if I KNEW he really needed help, I would have given him more. It wasn't about the four dollars. Screw the money. I just hate feeling like I was scammed.

"Here, I hope this helps you out," I said as I handed him the money. He thanked me and walked off.

That'w what I told him. Here is what I wish I had told him:

"Here, take this. I don't know if your story is true, because I have heard this game before. Many times. But I choose to believe you. Not because I am a sucker, but because I don't want to take the chance that I didn't help out another human being. I think people naturally want to help others out. But there are parasites out there that prey on this tendency and take advantage of the natural goodness of people. And that stunts the goodness. When someone is scammed, they turn from their nature. And then people turn away from each other.

I hope that's not you. And I hope that if that is you, that you have a change of heart. I hope you look within and find that place you went to when you were a kid, that made you want to improve the world. In any case, don't wait for your fortunes to change. Open your heart and make something of yourself. Become someone that inspires others. Learn to stand on your own two feet. Find that place inside you that makes you shine. It's there. If you can't feel it, reach deeper. And then bring it out so others can see the glow."

Perhaps next time I will be prepared with such a monologue.

Thanks for reading my Four Dollar Story.

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Dr Wayne Dyer ~ Compassion is the Key


even Teddy Roosevelt disdained pandas

that guy sounds like an objectivist

Thanks for the video, Chris!

“With laws shall our land be built up, but with lawlessness laid waste.”
-Njal Thorgeirsson

Indeed, I have heard him speak Ayn's praises...

and a quick google search finds many others have made comparisons. See also:


even Teddy Roosevelt disdained pandas

God is keeping score,

so it doesn't matter when we have been scammed. I always remember this simple poem:

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

- Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa

Toughest woman I ever met.

I am a....

...professional truck driver and I see this all the time. Eye contact is the killer. Once it ( eye contact ) has been made, I know that 7-10 minutes of my time has just been spoken for and usually after 9-11 hours of dodging "text heads" and "back seat drivers". My nerves are shot and all I want to do is go to sleep so I can wake up fresh and get home to my wife and children. I must say that every now and then one of these people will catch me on the wrong day and I'll just send them away but every now and then I'll feel the need to take out a little aggression and I'll engage them. They go through their story, practiced and polished. When they are done and waiting for me to hand over some cash ( never a specified amount but "just enough to get home" ) I'll ask them, "Drugs, alcohol, or mental retardation?" "What?" they will say. So I ask them again, "Drugs, alcohol, or mental retardation? Is that why you can't hold down a job?" At this point the tables turn and they know they are no longer in control of the situation and now they are on the defensive. This is where it gets interesting. This is where they break down and tell the truth or move on because they must now work to answer my question. Regardless of their answer, most of the time I'll give them a $20.00 just so long as they answer and I feel like I could believe them. I just like to see them squirm a little. Then I'll point out to them that they would make a hell of a lot more money and be a whole lot safer doing so as a used car salesmen rather than knocking on the door of a 6'3", road weary truck driver. LOL! Just a thought.

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▂▄▅█████████▅▄▃▂ ☻/
Il███████████████████]. /▌
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Never regret giving. Good

Never regret giving. Good story.

scam or not..

it cost u $4 to make the right decision in your heart. I'll buy u a beer to split the difference.

live your life happy. its more rewarding. it only cost a few bucks to believe in humanity.

not a bad deal...

'Peace is a powerful message.' Ron Paul

I can't help it guys

I see this and think Deuteronomy, guaranteed emergency credit with zero interest, and debt forgiveness every 7 years.

Deuteronomy 15:7 If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD(YHUH) thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother:
8 But thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth.
9 Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought; and he cry unto the LORD(YHUH) against thee, and it be sin unto thee.
10 Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest unto him: because that for this thing the LORD(YHUH) thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto.
11 For the poor shall never cease out of the land: therefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land.


Hear, O Israel: YHUH our God YHUH one. And thou shalt love YHUH thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

Good story, it's a hard situation.

I have to admit that I freely give anything I have in my pockets to those that I feel need it. The main way that I make that decision is the fact that they don't ask for it in the first place. I drive a big ole crew cab diesel 4x4, and it's hard for me to know that people are hungry, and I spend more on fuel than these people do on nourishment. It's also hard for me to be against government intrusion, without making sure that I do what I can for those who are downtrodden. If you are standing on a corner with a 'will work for food' sign, then I promise you that you will get nothing but me, except for an offer of temporary employment. I have offered this employment at least a hundred times, and have never once had anyone actually 'work for food' or money.

That same big ole 4x4 truck has hauled many a hitch hiker in its day too, as have all of my vehicles. I have been called racist, prejudice, and any other word you can think of, by everyone other than black folks. I am certainly not racist, but I am much worse in their eyes, for I refuse to bow down to the neo Amerikkan god of political correctness. I will say that at least 90 percent of the people I have helped on down the road were older black men. Sometimes I have picked them up because it is dangerous for them to be out that late at night, at least in the areas I have found them. Very rural areas mind you. Sometimes it may be that it is just so stinking hot outside that nobody needs to be walking down a hot interstate carrying bags. You just never know what is going to present itself while you are cruising down the road enjoying a nice ride, leather interior, air conditioning, and an Evan Williams on the rocks.

The good book says that the poor will ALWAYS be with us, and that their souls are what we should concern ourselves with. But what I have learned from my experiences with these elderly black men, is that these downtrodden people have a more spiritual and 'right' soul than I will ever achieve. Many a lesson has been taught to me by an old black man with yellowed eyes, peppered white hair, few teeth, and wisdom beyond my reach. I thank God for each and every person I have met on the road. They have done more for me than I could have ever done for them.

The Good Book also teaches us to not just hand out our gifts or money to just anyone. Don't cast your pearls among the swine comes to mind. I honestly consider the lazy, and way to young, people standing on the corner pretending to want work as swine. I shall not cast my pearls, or my money, at their feet. I have, and will continue to help out those who are downtrodden, and just don't have what it takes to earn a living any longer. We have been blessed with more than the average federal reserve note allowance, yet we live well below our means so that we can invest the excess into the lives of those who can't do for themselves. Notice I said 'can't' and not 'won't'. For our grand experiment to work, we will all need to become more giving. I for one can not let someone, who is unable to take care of themselves, starve to death. There will be a huge vacuum if we ever get our way, and the government stands down in order to let the people rise up. We are fighting for this very vacuum whether we like it or not. I'm all for giving up my excess frn stash in order to help those in need, I just don't want the government doing it by force, and therefore forcing me to pay a huge bureaucracy along with it.

We should do as Ghandi says, and be the change that we want to see in this world.

That is great

I'm loving these stories. Roll on.

I have another perspective about the "pearls before swine proverb". I think that it means something to the effect of ( don't invest your energy trying to support something in a manner which doesn't benefit it ). The pearls being totally worthless to a pig. I don't think that it was meant to express that there are individuals who aren't worth helping.

Freedom is a byproduct of acceptance - judge not.

Me thinks you judge too soon. :)

"don't invest your energy trying to support something in a manner which doesn't benefit it" Does this not mean the same as what I said? Are there those people who won't actually benefit from you 'giving' them what they can rightfully earn? In fact it hurts them, rather than benefiting them. Much like the entitlement crowd that is physically able to work, but they don't because someone will give them just enough to exist. These people aren't 'swine', but their cause (seeking handouts to avoid actual work) most certainly is.

San Deigo and Houston.

I drive a stupid little Dodge.
1989 in fact.

I got tired of the homeless in these city's.
they are at every frickin stop light dude.

but, you really did a good job of trying to make me feel like shit.

Haha don't take it like that!

Most of mine are found between OKC and the DFW area. It gets stinking hot out there and I just can't stand to see old men walking in that heat. 4-8 lanes of black pavement, blistering sun, and 110 degrees. I've had many say that they didn't want a ride, so I just leave them with several bottles of water. If I was surrounded by them all the time then perhaps my outlook would be much different, though I hope not.

Maybe it's a lifestyle in those cities?

The Bible also says, "For also when we were with you, this we declared to you: that, if any man will not work, neither let him eat." Thessalonians 3:10


This probably only applies to those who are capable and refuse a job, though.

There was one time that I

There was one time that I knew I got scammed because when I arrived at the bus station the ticket salesmen told me this particular man I helped out has been scamming many times before. This man approached me in the parking lot and I listened to his story, took him to Walmart and allowed him to shop for himself. He bought the cheapest, most necessary things like canned food with the tabs to open them and towels that cost cents. He explained that to wash his face gave him a feeling of decency. I could see that he also had medical conditions including mental because he was hiding medicine under his shirt and the bus stop attendant told me he keeps making the same trip across the country with the same story every time. He told me he visits a family member who doesn't help him and needs to get back to CA to get his medicine. He tried to compensate me by giving some old coupons. I decided beforehand that I didn't care if I was scammed to the extreme. I would just humble myself and take it and receive the jeers from my family telling me how stupid I am. But I believe there is a relevant Scripture here. Jesus said, when I was naked you clothed me, hungry you fed me, in prison you visited me. And I would say, when did I ever do any of that to you. He would reply that whatever I did to one of the least of men you have done for me. So I also believe that if everyone allowed themselves to be scammed, God would judge those evil in heart, but I would be judged righteous. Another experience I had though was when I was driving him across town to the bus station he started complaining about the rich men who are greedy and hate people. I told him that I believed that some rich people God uses to bless others, like Bill Gates giving a lot to charity. That shut him up a bit because he had been complaining and complaining about his misfortunes. Then he starts singing some hymn out of the blue and repeating to himself after certain lines, yes Lord you have taken care of me today. Then he would continue singing and then stop mid-line and say you sent someone to help me today. I had no idea he was a Christian, but I did tell him previously that I wasn't doing this for him, that Jesus was doing this for him and that I would have just walked by if it was me doing it. After that experience I felt so dirty thinking about how proud I was and how much this man had taught me, someone who was at the end of his ropes physically and mentally. Truly speaking he was very creepy, and I hope the good spirit remains in him and the evil spirits stay out so that he can live out his days in peace.

You knew it was a scam, yet

You knew it was a scam, yet you gave in. Hmm...

I just tell them "not today".

If I see someone in genuine need, I'll lend a few minutes of my time but I have never, ever come across a situation that requires I hand money over to a stranger. Scams are easy to spot after you learn to recognize them.

Especially if you see anyone in need as a 'scammer'

right cheesy? Sounds like you are a little too addicted to your FRN's to me. There is a joy in giving that you are missing out on. I've never once been 'required' to do any giving, but rather we do it as a gift, and with a hope that we can make a small difference in someones life. I'm sure your 'few minutes of time' are probably hard to give up too. Glad most others see the world from a whole different point of view.

"Judge not, lest ye be

"Judge not, lest ye be judged."

You're judging me and the "holier-than-thou" attitude is not appreciated.

Get over it.


I usually just say...

"I can't hear you, I'm deaf" in that loud deaf guy accent and the scammers leave me alone. ;-)

Just so you don't think I'm heartless, I did give some change to a guy with his wife and kid outside a market, put a couple gallons in a guys gas can out of my fill, and can usually spot a person who is "real".

Good Story

There is a lot to consider in it. I have given to strangers a number of times, the most notable being when I brought a guy a car. It could easily have been a scam, but I still don't regret doing it. If it was, it was still a destitute man receiving a massive gift from another person, with no other motive than to help him. That has to have a beneficial effect.

The thing is, I don't actually believe that there is any person who is truly absent of love. I think that it gets lost and distorted in the trials of life, and seemingly negative personality traits are formed to try and compensate. I think that I am at my wisest when I can consider this in the face adversity.

Freedom is a byproduct of acceptance - judge not.

Unless the guy you gave the

Unless the guy you gave the car traded it for meth, got high, and murdered his entire family.

"In reality, the Constitution itself is incapable of achieving what we would like in limiting government power, no matter how well written."

~ Ron Paul, End the Fed


and somehow it would be my kindness that made that all possible ? If that was his karma then it's out of my control.
I believe that an act of kindness can only yield positive effect one way or another.

Freedom is a byproduct of acceptance - judge not.

As long as I've got a few bucks in my pocket...

I almost always give them to anyone who asks. The only time I even consider not giving someone a few bucks when asked is when the smallest bill I have in my pocket is a $10 bill. When that happens I generally just give them all the coins in my ashtray...which many times is actually more than $10. (I only keep silver colored tokens in my ash try...I leave all pennies next to the register anytime I receive any change)

Don't take may comments as if I've got lots of extra money to hand out to strangers, because I don't. There are certainly times when I don't have any money in my pocket. If I don't have any money to give, well, I don't have any more to give.

I'm 50 years old and so far I've never had to beg for money from strangers. I've gotten pretty damn close a few times but so far,...I've never completely run out of ideas/options that I've had to resort to begging.

Reminds me of this guy

There's this guy that works the gas stations in/out of Vegas. Drives around doing his "I'm a vet" story. He even brings his kid with him. First time I gave him $. Two years later, I'm at another gas station and immediately recognize him as he approaches me.

I just shook my head like things were going to get nasty if he kept approaching me, and he immediately turned around and left.

Some people are just total scum bags.

Instead of sharing another "War Story"

...as most are wont to do here...I'll say this:

"You did the Christian Thing".....so;

Stop beating yourself up over not "lecturing" the guy...pointless.
...and although you may or may not subscribe to a;
"Christian Philosophy"
Give yourself a big "pat-on-the-back" for an act of ;
"sacrifice": the "four dollars"...and
"love"; love for your fellow man, an act of love and charity.

LOVE is ACTION.....not just words...you did good!
...and if that guy was NOT "on the level"?
...Let it Go!.....that's a stain on his soul/karma, etc...not yours.
Hope this perspective brings some relief.

"Beyond the blackened skyline, beyond the smoky rain, dreams never turned to ashes up until.........
...Everything CHANGED !!

Michael Nystrom's picture

Good work Ed

Both with your actions, and your writing.

There are some talented writers here at the DP, and you are definitely among them.

I think we've all been in the situation you describe, at one time or another. It is always a judgement call.

One time I was downtown, and a lady walked up to me in a blue hospital gown, crying. She still had her wrist band on. She said she was stranded and needed money. By chance, I had recently seen a YouTube video about how sometimes hospitals will just take homeless people who came into the emergency rooms out and and just drop them off on the street (this was about four years ago).

She caught me off guard. I didn't have time to put my rejection face on. I had just come up from the subway in downtown Boston. I opened my wallet and gave her a twenty.

When she saw that twenty, she got a look of surprise on her face like, "Wow - that's way more than I bargained for." And I felt for a second like I got scammed.

But if I got scammed, it was much milder than what happened to Mike Lawson, and BT below!

At any rate, there's no way to know what is inside the minds of others. The only thing you have control over is yourself, your own actions, and (to some extent) your own feelings. I think your closing monologue, that you didn't get to deliver is pretty damn good.

Here, take this. I don't know if your story is true, because I have heard this game before. Many times. But I choose to believe you. Not because I am a sucker, but because I don't want to take the chance that I didn't help out another human being. I think people naturally want to help others out. But there are parasites out there that prey on this tendency and take advantage of the natural goodness of people. And that stunts the goodness. When someone is scammed, they turn from their nature. And then people turn away from each other.

I hope that's not you. And I hope that if that is you, that you have a change of heart. I hope you look within and find that place you went to when you were a kid, that made you want to improve the world. In any case, don't wait for your fortunes to change. Open your heart and make something of yourself. Become someone that inspires others. Learn to stand on your own two feet. Find that place inside you that makes you shine. It's there. If you can't feel it, reach deeper. And then bring it out so others can see the glow.

Or like what Peeta said in the Hunger Games about being forced into participating: "I just don't want them to change me."

Or like what Jewel says in that one song...In the end, only kindness matters

Good work Ed. Thank you.

To be mean is never excusable, but there is some merit in knowing that one is; the most irreparable of vices is to do evil out of stupidity. - C.B.

Took a guy home on the back

Took a guy home on the back of my motorcycle right smack into the combat zone one time. He got off and thanked me. Bailed a DAV out along the interstate needing a fan belt one time. Have taken afew risks but Allah blesses those that help the weary traveller.

You're a good man

Most people would not have handled that situation the way you did.Most in fact,would have just walked away.I wish you had thought on your feet to give him the message you put out at the end.I know from experience,it's hard to think of the things you later wish you had said.But that is a very good message to give to the people who do try to pull these scams over on society.Let them know that you are a good person who cares about people,but you know they are bullshitting you....