The Ethics of Shelter

I had a weird and interesting ethical dilemma today. (At least, it was a weird and interesting dilemma for me– perhaps for someone else, not so much.)

The weather was strange today. As aficionados of Winnie the Pooh might call it, it was A Very Blustery Day Torrential rain, gusts of wind, and tiny bouts of tremendous beauty.

So, while it was pouring, I was inside, warm and cosy. And then I heard a sound on the porch. I looked out, and there was a tough looking Latino guy and a 5 year old child. They did not see me. The guy was talking on his cell phone.

I suss out immediately that they are waiting out the rain.

I have a series of mixed responses to this: My first response is territorial, and not very charitable. Who are these strangers, and why are they on MY porch? Get them off. I’m not on their porch. And hey, I knew that it was going to rain, so I didn’t go walking around. Why didn’t they show the same foresight? I’m tempted to ask them to leave.

But then I start thinking– hey, I’m not using that part of the house– why shouldn’t they use it as a temporary shelter– they’re not harming anything. And besides, in Norse Mythology, the guys who show up at your door demanding shelter usually turn out to be Loki, Thor, and/or Odin and their friends, and woe betide them that do not turn themselves out hospitably. Perhaps I should offer them a beverage? Or perhaps a snack of some kind? I think we’ve got some Colombian candies….

Right around then I start thinking about how I would feel if there weren’t a kid involved, or if it was a gang of tough teenagers on my doorstep, drinking out of a paper bag, and I start to feel a little less charitable (Sorry Loki, all out of Mead! Have a can of whupass instead)

About this time, I look out again, and my ethical dilemma has (along with my mysterious guests) departed. But my weird thoughts have not.

I know that being charitable is good, but I generally like to do it on my terms, which is probably less than I ought. I do have a bit of a territorial nature, perhaps to my detriment. I guess my point is that I probably won’t be reaching Nirvana anytime soon.






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