The young man hailed me as I was about to go into the church kitchen to fix my dinner. He wondered if we had money we could give him; he was out of work; and so on. He didn’t seem like a con artist, or an addict, and I didn’t recognize him as one of the regulars who come back every few months with the same threadbare story. I told him we didn’t have money to give out, that what little money we got went to members of friends of the church. We talked a little about his specific problem. When I finally let it slip that I was close to someone who had been looking for work for a long time, he began to give me advice to pass along: here’s the best approach to use in interviews these days; here are the current hot Web sites for job searches; here’s the advice he gives for structuring resumes; and so on. It was really good advice. It was clear that he was dead serious about his job search. Just then Amy, the senior minister, happened to walk by. I asked if she had any money in her discretionary fund. She said someone had just given her some money back. She gave the money to the young man. Do I have to pay it back? he asked. No, no, we said, if you want to that’s fine and we’ll then give it to someone else, but just take it. He took the money, and I told him that if he was going to get the rest of what he needed by tomorrow, he’d better head off. He wrote down the best job search Web sites for me to pass on to the person I knew who is looking for work, and then he went on his way.
Update: He came back and repaid the money.