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trying to do good and facing discomfort

okay so background is that I'm a live-in nanny for my brother-in-law. It's about half as a favor to him, so I'm not getting paid like I would be otherwise, just room and board and food and anything else I might need. I've also had depression for over half my life, and have tried therapy and meds and tons of things, but it's treatment-resistant, and my depression can give me social anxiety and just generally make me (internally) misanthropic. But I've been trying to like do nice things and throw myself into service of the kids, and it should make me feel a little better right? Because of interconnectedness and karma?

Anyway sometimes when I'm outside with one of the kids, this guy will be walking past, and the first time he walked by we said hi, and he asked if we had any food to spare, so I said yeah I got him some food. And now every time, he'll ask if we have anything he can take home, and I'll go and find something.

He's not pushy or really rude or anything, he's been nice and we've made small talk and I know his name, but I'm feeling some discomfort about it, and I can't figure out why. Yesterday we had a birthday for the kids in the yard, and he walked by and I said hi and offered him some cake. My brother-in-law offered him the soda we hadn't drunk, but then when he asked when we had any canned goods, my brother-in-law said no, and privately said he had gone too far.

I've meditated on it, but I can't pin down why exactly I'm uncomfortable with the situation of seeing him occasionally and giving him what I can. Is it just that he's poor and it's uncomfortable to confront that? Is it that he's so open about asking for food/drinks? Is it that I feel obligated? Is it just that he's a person I don't know well? Is it that I've been giving him food and sodas without telling my brother-in-law who really bought it? Is it that I'm scared people would just think I'm young and naive and stupid for being charitable?

Obviously I should meditate on it more, but I'm interested in what you guys think, cause I am struggling with this. The weird uncomfortable feeling kind of ruined the rest of my day yesterday. Do you guys ever experience lots of discomfort while doing good? How do you deal with it? Does it just take practice to get over?

lobster

Comments

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Are you feeling uncomfortable because of the man, or because of something with the situation of helping him? I'd try to narrow that down, first. Did you feel weird about it the first time you met him? Or was your intuition/gut feeling that he was ok and you wanted to help? If you felt weird from the first moment, it could be something with him that you are picking up on. But if you felt ok about him and helping him until others got involved and made comments, then I'd look in that direction.

    You can also start to narrow it down, like, talk to your BIL and tell him you'd like to help the man and ask if he minds if you occasionally share things with him. That'll tell you if that is the part you are struggling with. And so on. I think it would be good to be upfront with him about the situation in full just because it is his home and family that the man is approaching and if he doesn't feel ok with that, you might have to respect his wishes. Maybe you could engage the man elsewhere, at a church or something similar so you can still help if you feel the need but not at your BILs home.

    Perhaps if you feel ok about it and an opportunity presents, chat with the man and find out about his story. That may help answer some questions as well.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    I think I know exactly why you feel uncomfortable.
    Because you believe this man is taking advantage of you, and using you.
    He's got a cushy little number going there, and he's now playing on your good nature, knowing you won't have the heart - or courage(?) to turn him down. He's preying on you.
    This isn't genuine friendship for him, this is an easy ride t free pickings.

    Have you heard the saying, "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will feed himself his whole lifetime."....? Sadly, what you've 'taught' him is that he doesn't have to learn to fish - he can keep coming to you every day, ad you'll feed him.

    The bigger problem now, is that he knows where you live.
    Your option therefore - if I am right - is that you have to find the courage deep down in your boots to let him know that he cannot come round for any more food, because it's not yours to give, and you can't help him. Suggest he contact a local charity or go to the church....

    you're also uncomfortable because you're not a 'people person' and that's ok. That's you. That's how things roll, and it's how you are, and that's fine.
    Trying to be someone you're not is a sure-fire way of making you feel worse, because it's forced and doesn't come naturally.
    You're mistaken, in my opinion, that -

    ...it should make me feel a little better right? Because of interconnectedness and karma?

    Sure what you're doing is very good, but if it's false, and forced, you're not doing yourself any favours. You can cultivate good Kamma and interconnectedness without necessarily being 'physically' involved with others. If it's difficult for you and a strain on your contentment, then it's not conducive to a peaceful existence. You don't have to do that to yourself...

    This man is messing with your inner self. To be honest, I would feel uncomfortable too. little wonder you do.

    lobster
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    Clearly he's a moocher and that's why you feel uncomfortable because in spite of your generosity, you know he's taking unfair advantage - he's pretty aggressive on that score so build up your backbone (I guess both you and your bil) and find a way to as graciously as you can, refuse his advances on your goods.

  • Thanks for the insight, I think you're both absolutely right, I just needed the perspective. I suppose I would know he was more genuine if he'd appreciated the first offer for what it was and not continued to ask so I could offer again if and when I could but not just out of awkwardness or obligation that might come from his asking again. I had the thought that since he's older he keeps asking because he really needs it and just doesn't care anymore about pride or whatever, but I think you're right @federica that he's probably just taking advantage and I was confused.

    anyway follow up, how can I go about letting myself be open and loving and giving without being taken advantage of? Should I save good deeds just for people I know? Is it too simplistic to try to be giving with everyone?

    lobster
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited October 2016

    @laurarux
    If you are in the US here's a link that will help you locate the nearest "foodbank" in our area...
    If you're in the UK this "link" should help you to locate one...

    Once you have located one then just direct this person in need to it.... :)

    There are always help options if you look for them...

    Metta <3

  • He does know where the food bank is actually, but I know he lives in the other direction of it from my house, so it's quite a ways since he has mobility issues and our public transportation is essentially useless.

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    @laurarux said:
    ...

    anyway follow up, how can I go about letting myself be open and loving and giving without being taken advantage of? Should I save good deeds just for people I know? Is it too simplistic to try to be giving with everyone?

    Of course you shouldn't save your good deeds just for people you know. Maybe you could call the foodbank and explain your situation to them and ask them if there's any way they know of to remedy this man's transportation issues in finding his way to them. In the meantime, I guess just tell him you're just fresh out of canned goods or whatever and maybe he'll take the hint. I think that's an easy enough out.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    edited October 2016

    Just a thought, but perhaps he was not being aggressive in a negative sense. If you were in his place, and struggled every day to find food, would you not go back to someone nice who offered it to you in the first place? What if he were an "aggressive mooching" kitten or puppy or starving wild animal? Would we use the same negative terms towards them or would we have more compassion and understand that when a being, any being, finds a reliable source of food, of course they will go back for their survival? Why do we think that starving homeless should have the same logic as stable people when it comes to things like not staring a gift horse in the mouth, or not taking things like generosity for advantage? they are trying to stay alive. Of COURSE they take a food source for advantage because you have no choice. It may seem he's making unfair demands, but it's pretty unfair that he doesn't have food to eat, too.

    lobsterFosdick
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    I'm sorry but I don't think anyone in @laurarux position can assume he isn't taking the canned goods etc. given him and selling them for booze or drugs - we aren't there so we don't know his appearance and if it would or could convey what goes on with him inside. I wouldn't feel safe having someone come around that often and to me, anyone that's half way sane isn't going to knowingly put that (to me) obvious burden on someone who's been generous once or twice. I think it's overbearing on his part no matter his hunger or down-and-outness.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    It's just as risky for him to approach someone who is likely to defend what they have. He's stuck at the very bottom of the hierarchy of needs, and his ability to even understand he is being "overbearing" is pretty much impossible. His safety isn't even above his need to not starve to death.

    Steve_B
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    I guess the only way to find out for sure if this fellow is honest is to follow him and see what he does. If someone came around my home as often as it seems this fellow does, I'd be very uncomfortable and wary. And that did happen to me a few years ago.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    It is pretty much impossible for us to tell her why she feels how she does. She needs to trust her instincts about why. We have a very mentally ill young man here who lives in the woods (even in the winter when it's -40) but when he doesn't have success hunting, he comes into town for food from others. He does get help from the churches but we don't have any other resources. So it's up to the community. Some people are content to bad mouth him all over social media. Others have taken the time to hear his story and enjoy a smile, a handshake or other exchanges. Others feel he's dangerous, solely because he is homeless and needy. I (and others) feel he's much more a danger to himself than anyone else and I help him when I can and when I happen to see him. It's just a matter of what you see and where you come from as far as all your own conditions. I've never had a negative experience with such a person, quite the opposite. So that is the avenue I choose to see when I come across them otherwise. Others will have had different experiences that color their view. I was only offer another way to consider the situation, as I find it a bit heartbreaking to see people so quick to assume badly of someone in such a bad state in life, particularly someone they have never met, seen and know nothing about other than a few short paragraphs written by someone unsure of how they feel.

    lobster
  • <3

    @laurarux hello B)

    There is a needy person. They need to feel secure, at ease and in control of their feelings/situation. That person is you. They need to know when to be open and when to be lobster (hard shelled). They need to know when to give and how to receive. When to say yes and how to know 'No!'

    @karasti is providing some insight that you might not be ready for. There are at least two needy people here, that need friends more than food ... B)

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @laurarux said:
    He does know where the food bank is actually, but I know he lives in the other direction of it from my house, so it's quite a ways since he has mobility issues and our public transportation is essentially useless.

    @laurarux
    Have you looked at contacting a local charitable organisation and explaining the situation to them ?..They may be able to assist in some way, ie, home visits etc ?

    And by doing so, you will be doing all that you possibly can under the present circumstances ....

    Remember ....One is no good to anybody (including oneself) when one becomes too emotionally attached/stressed out....

    lobsterkarasti
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    All I'm saying is to be careful, because cons come in all shapes, sizes, and attire. His repeated presence is enough to make the average person a little suspicious. And if he's desperate then he could decide to do something not so good. I'm just giving feedback.

    Shoshin
  • I too suffer from social anxiety as well as a number of "issues". Interaction with anyone can be painfull. That being said, yes it could be the feeling of being taking advantage of. Still, I have helped people in the past who took advantage of me. Sometimes you can tell what they're doing... sometimes not so much. I usually help people if I can just on the off chance I'm wrong about their intentions.

  • Dear Friends, fiends (Halloween special) and the needy, greedy and enlightened,

    Always be kind according to your capacity. Not your fantasy model of perfect openness. In other words, look after yourself. 'Being taken advantage of' is an advanced practice willingly performed - when ready. Wobbly jellies are not yet ready ... o:)

    karastijustushobbits
  • Well said @Tiddlywinds
    The right attitude towards the sangha, beggars and our needy selves is one of the giver is in receipt.
    Extreme generosity (usually in secret) is one of the trainings in Sufism, some Christianity for example Santa aka St Nicholas.

    Lobster tip: don't be too greedy in your generosity. Gently does it ...

  • @lobster said:

    Lobster tip: don't be too greedy in your generosity. Gently does it ...

    Very nice way of putting. I love it!

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