Generosity towards our neighbor


#1

Hello, I wasn’t sure which forum this would fall under, but I figured this was a good start.

I have a very uncomfortable situation, and could really use some advice or prayer = \    My husband and I try to live humbly and generously, but I have to admit that there are times I feel people take advantage of that.  We don't have "a lot" but God has blessed us with enough to provide a home for our three young children, and to care for them well beyond anything we deserve. By most american standards I guess we'd be considered middle class? We try to live under our means (only drive one car, have a house with just enough space for our family, donate our time and finances to the church etc..), but our home sits right between a couple of older houses that are rented out, and we've had a variety of neigbors through the years.  Most often, the homes next to us are rented to families or single/living together couples that have either had a difficult time growing up, or are in difficult life situations.

About a year ago, a young girl (about 16 or 17) moved in next door with a woman in her thirties who was a single mom with a 13ish year old son. The girl stopped by my house one evening and asked if I had any “work” for her, like raking the leaves. She said she “was in trouble with the police” and needed to pay fines. I was eager for a chance to get to know her and possibly by her relationship with my family be a witness to her. I told her we didn’t have much to offer money wise, but that she was always welcome to come over if she needed to talk about anything. My husband and I decided to find about 40 dollars in the budget so we could help her the next weekend when she asked to rake leaves.
She stopped over again, and this time told me a little more about herself. Her mother/father pretty much out of the picture, and the woman she lived with was so nice because she actually took care of her. (things like buying birth control for her "if she became sexually active) … I didn’t comment on this point at the time because I really didn’t have a good enough relationship with the girl yet to start explaining theological points…and honestly I was just kind of speechless.

She stopped by again asking to shovel snow, and said she only had 50 dollars left on her fines for "the bad things she did before she shaped up" ( I never asked questions, I didn't want to scare her away)...So for 5 minutes worth of work (we have a small sidewalk) we gave her 40 of the 50 dollars she owed.

She's been back now a few times asking to mow grass, and we've given her 20..but today I finally said something

When she came to the door, she asked to mow the grass. “Your husband said I could mow the grass and get 20 dollars” she said…I told her that I’m not sure what he said to her but that I wanted to be honest. I said we’ve been happy to help her, and want to continue being generous but that honestly I’m starting to feel taken advantage of. I don’t mean to upset you, but I don’t feel like we can continue paying you to work on our yard. Thank you for always offering to mow for us, and I’m sorry.

Was I off base? I want to be generous with my neigbor and I really want to help her situation…but I feel that the best way is for her to come and TALK to us, not to keep coming asking for money. Granted, she always earns it…mowing our tiny 8 by 8 patch of grass >< But I feel that 20 dollars is too much, and I really don’t want to keep paying her for something we normally do ourselves anyway. My original offer to her last year was that we don’t have much, but she’s always welcome to come talk to me if she needs…and she has NEVER come to confide in me. I feel like our neigbors think we’re the “rich” people in the neigborhood and that is just not true. We are one of the only nuclear families in the neigborhood, but certainly not wealthy = \

What should I do? I hope when my husband comes home he isn’t disapproving that I turned her down. He is even more generous than I, and also wants to do the right thing.

Thanks for reading this long post…maybe I just needed to vent…but it’s really weighing on my heart. This poor girl really is in some kind of trouble, and life has dealt her a hard plate…I guess I thought I could be there for her and maybe plant a seed of hope that her future wouldn’t have to be the same = \


#2

I do think the rates you are paying her are excessive compared to the amount of work she is doing. I also think there does come a time when you need to say “no”. You’ve reached it.

She is 16-17 which is old enough to get a job at a fast food place, grocery store, or other establishment. She is not a charity case, she has a roof over her head and adult supervision. It is her guardian’s responsibility to see her criminal fines get paid. And, if she is a charity case then you should give her a referral to a qualified organization that does social work.

If you and your DH have a set a budget that includes what you will give to charity, and it sounds as if you are on the generous end of the spectrum, you should not feel guilty if you cannot give to everyone with their hand out.


#3

My 15 and 16 year olds earn $20 an hour mowing…BUT the yards they mow are about 1/3 to 1/2 of an acre and they use their own mowers with gas they have to pay for.

They also shovel … at $10 an hour. Most driveways do not even take 30 minutes!

She is definitely taking advantage of you! I’d ask more questions…what was the fine for…what does she do in her free time…what are her friends like…what kinds of things does she like…get to know her! Don’t just hand her money for token jobs. That isn’t doing her any favors!


#4

It sounds to me that you have been paying her more than the “going rate” for the tasks she has been performing. While that is generous and very kind, you are certainly under no obligation to continue to do so.

At the same time, putting myself in her position, I can imagine that she might have been a little taken aback at being told she was “taking advantage” by continuing to ask about performing taks that you had previously been willing to pay her for.

A better way to handle the situation might have been to tell her that your husband hadn’t said anything to you about paying her to mow the grass this time, and you wanted to talk with him about it first. If he had already made that offer, stick to it. But talk with your husband about whether it really fits your budget for this arrangement to continue. If it doesn’t, thank the young woman for her help but if she asks again just tell her that you and your husband will be taking care of the lawn/leaves/snow yourselves this time.


#5

I agree. She was asking to WORK for the money. She wasn’t just hitting you up for cash.

You chose to pay her much more than the going rate, then you blame her and say she’s taking advantage? That’s not fair. You may have just turned her off with that, and may never see her again.

A bit of advice… don’t look at every casual meeting as a chance to evangelize. Just be friends with people. Evangelization will happen naturally if people are open to it and see a good example. If you only see people as potential projects and not as having value of themselves, they will feel like you just want something from them and not like you are a friend.


#6

First off, thank you for the frankness of your replies so far.

I felt that I may have been too harsh with the girl as well, when I told her I was feeling taken advantage of. I did thank her for offering to work on our yard, but that overall I didn’t think we could continue accepting. I didn’t mean to come across as only seeing her as someone to evangelize too, that is why I never questioned what kind of trouble she was in, nor did I lecture her about her birth control decisions. I was truly hoping she might come to feel comfortable at our home, and find some comfort in having a stable family to confide in. She is a very troubled teenager, and there are always questionable things going on next door. (the police showing up frequently…yelling…a fight out on the street that I had to report with screaming and cursing and the girl screaming at the boys who were duking it out. ) I don’t live in a “bad” neigborhood…but sometimes it starts to feel like it!

The reason I was feeling taken advantage of was because the only times she ever dropped by were to ask to mow the grass for money (sometimes twice a week…grass doesn’t grow that quickly…) or to borrow/use/have things. She would knock on the door almost every day asking for cooking oil… a nail file…bathroom tissue… a suitcase… to use the phone (several times a day occasionally). Granted I have no problem lending things, what’s the problem in giving my neigbor an extra nail file? And the phone…it doesn’t cost me any extra to let her use it. It’s that she was really starting to use our family like a convenience store, and didn’t care to get to know any of us.

Anyway, I may also have been a little harsh with her because it was a particular difficult day with my 4 year old/2 year old and 3 month old...the doorbell rang while I was trying to nurse, keep the oldest from hitting his little brother, and keep dinner from burning! I didn't raise my voice or sound angry with her, but I was very blunt and honest =\   I felt that it was warrented, however, because I had been so terribly passive up until then. That doesn't justify if I pushed her away, but I really do see her as a troubled girl in heaven knows what kind of bad situations...and I'd like in some small way to be an example that she doesn't have to continue down the road life has put her on. The decision is up to her though, and I felt that her actions towards our family so far didn't show any signs of interest in change.

I know my posts are always terribly long, and I apologize for the wall of text..it's so hard to sum up in a few words when you're a fairly analytical personality =P  I wanted to add also, that I've just been all together uncomfortable with our neigbor situation. This teenage girl doesn't frighten me or anything, but her company ussually does. There are often several young men at her house cursing, dressing in boxers and nothing else, blaring music, lighting huge bonfires in the back yard five feet from our house at midnight....yelling...One guy tried to convince me as I was passing for a walk that his fiance is posessed by demons and their biker-buddy was over for the weekend to exorcise them ><

Basically, my neigbors scare me >< I have no clue what goes on next door, and I am often afraid to take my children outside in the yard unless they’re not around, or we pass the yard and walk to the park. Having this girl drop by and ask for things, then turn around and behave the way we’ve observed doesn’t help = \


#7

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