I live in a bad neighborhood in a poor city, and over the years I’ve come to the decision that I will not make the call on whether someone is “deserving.” In your case it seems like the employees knew very well that the guy was just a mooch. But I learned something important about this recently, so I’ll tell you the story.
This past Christmas Eve, my husband and I tried to help a man who came into the church in the town we were visiting, claiming to be homeless. As soon as we left the church to drive with him to a gas station and put some gas in his car, his story started changing. In the end we weren’t able to help him, because as a general rule we only give practical help (like fill up a car), and he made it clear that wasn’t the kind of “help” he wanted. However, due to some confusion, he did manage to get some money out of us (which we know better than to do). My husband and I left feeling upset and – though I can’t speak for husband – I felt ashamed and dirty for allowing myself to be used that way. And it was Christmas Eve, for heaven’s sake.
I woke up in the middle of the night, as I often do when I’m that upset. And as I usually do when I wake up in the middle of the night, I prayed; this time I asked Jesus to show me how he wanted me to think of this. I got two things which would be relevant here:
Whatever I do to the least of His people, that I do to Him. “The least” does not mean “the ‘deserving’ poor.” The designation includes the liars, the drunkards, the con-men, the addicts, the thieves, the murderers, etc. [Mooches, too!] Christ looks upon the things we do for love of Him with favor, no matter what the state or intentions of the recipient.
Jesus, the person of the Son of the infinite God, took on the limits of human flesh to save us. While He dwelt with us, He was scorned, mocked, betrayed, scourged (not just whipped, but scourged), nailed to a cross, and killed. And THEN – and for millenia, now – He has come back to us again and again and again, hidden in bread: at the bidding of any priest, and at the mercy of absolutely anyone who should lay hands on Him. God Himself is often abused and taken advantage of in this form; therefore, there is no shame in being abused or taken advantage of. When others take advantage of our generosity and love, we are in the best imaginable company.
I find that the first time I find myself in an unexpected situation, I usually respond in a way I wish I hadn’t. For example, the first time someone came to our door begging, I literally *hid *behind my (very tall) husband, because I just didn’t know what to do! I worked it over in my head afterward, decided what I would have liked to do, and the next time it happened I had the script already in my head and ready to go. Which is to say that I don’t blame you at all for your response, oh you brave one who did not run and hide. That said, it would not have been wrong to buy him the sandwich. And even if he was trying to take advantage of you… well… see the above.
Eh, maybe I will tell you the other thing Jesus showed me that night. In the midst of the confusion I committed a relatively minor sin, obviously venial, but about which I felt absolutely terrible. He reminded me that I could take it to confession, He would forgive me, and He would teach me to do better. So if you feel that you failed in mercy or charity or love of neighbor or whatever, just take it to confession. He will forgive you and teach you to do better, and next time something similar happens, you’ll be starting from a better place.
I’ve prayed for you. I wish you the best in working out your take on this kind of situation.