The more you give of yourself, the more possibility there is of an uncaring person taking advantage of you. When you befriend the down trodden and desperate, your chances increase even more.
What do I mean by “taken advantage of”? In this case I mean things serious enough to get you into trouble while trying to help. There’s no stopping the average level of being taken advantage of. It’s not worth trying to stop people from being ungrateful or mean. However you do need to guard against cases where your generosity gets you or your family into trouble.
I realized the way to protect yourself is to simply refuse to do anything dishonest. Sounds simple but I think it is very easy to slip into slight dishonesty to help someone in trouble – small lies and omissions to get them out of a bind. However when dealing with the law, it is exactly such small lies that can get you into a lot of trouble. When the law or society wants someone to blame, they’ll find every minor transgression in order to pin the blame on someone (you!).
So, when asked “Hey, could you maybe [insert some seemingly innocuous favor]” you simply reply. “I’m sorry but it would not be honest of me to do that”, etc. I imagine myself slipping into a Fred Rogers impersonation for moment – “I care for you. I won’t abandon you but I cannot do the thing you are asking.”
The key is to show the person that you still love and support them. They will be angry that you won’t do what they want. Hopefully, they will look back and realize that you supported them with your love and honest forms of help.