We all have wondered at one time or another if we are ‘getting taken’. Do people who ask for help actually need the help?
This is no different in the world of people with intellectual disabilities. We often feel that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are vulnerable and naive and at risk because they aren’t ‘street smart’. As my colleague Jessica says, “Just because a person has special needs, doesn’t mean they aren’t smart.”
I like to help but I want to be careful that I’m not enabling. I know that it’s important to help people be as independent as possible.
Recently, I discussed this dilemma with a local pastor. He’s okay with ‘getting taken’ “because, for some people,” he says, “it’s a survival skill, plain and simple. Until we love them into a different way of thinking, how can we expect anything different?” Truthfully, I think I’m usually more worried about looking foolish for having fallen for it but maybe I need a new perspective, one that’s not focused on me but on others.
A wise teacher once said, “And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
I’m not being sued or forced to do anything, but the point is the same. So, what do I do if that little alarm goes off in my head that maybe someone is just playing me? Do I heed it or my heart? Well, frankly, I’d say go with the heart as long as it doesn’t endanger anyone (or involve large sums of money), and then check later whether or not the need is real. If it isn’t, then I should make the time to really get to know someone so I can act in the most responsible way with them next time. And if there really was a need, well then….may I always heed my heart.