One night last week, a knock sounded at my front door. My kids jumped up to answer it and I followed behind, wondering who could possibly be at my door at 8:00 on such a rainy night. I looked out over my kids’ heads to see a strange woman standing there, holding a plastic shopping bag and soaked to the core.
She said she lived across the street and started mumbling something about having to watch kittens. She asked me if I knew where some place named “Pages” was. I couldn’t figure out if the woman had been drinking or if she was just unwell, but something didn’t seem quite right.
I don’t know my neighbors across the street well, but I knew I’d never seen this woman before. I tried to clarify, “You live across the street?” She said she did. Disbelieving, I asked again, “You live right across the street there?” I pointed to the house. She insisted that she did indeed live there.
Like I said, I’m not good friends with my neighbors, so I can’t say with 100 percent certainty that she didn’t belong in that home, but I knew that something wasn’t right. All I knew was that she was a perfect stranger who was making me and my children uncomfortable. I was just about to ask her what she wanted from me when she abruptly turned around and mumbled that she was sorry to bother me.
I stood there with the rain coming down all around me, stupefied. This woman looked so forlorn, my protective instinct wanted to call her back and invite her in. Yet, something held me back. I’m a single mom, and I was home with three little kids at the time — would it really have been wise to invite a stranger into my home? But what if I was in a bad situation and knocked on a neighbor’s door for help? I’d want them to hear me out and lend a helping hand.
So, here it is a week later and I’m still thinking about this. I’m the kind of person who opens my door for anyone. I help whenever I possibly can. My oldest daughter asked if her friend could move in with us for a while and I only thought for a minute (Hmmm, single mom taking care of
six seven kids on her own?) before acquiescing. When my son’s baseball coach said that they needed a team mom, I immediately heard the words, “I’ll do it” come out of my mouth. When a stranger who spoke very little English came up to me at Universal Studios and asked if he could borrow my phone, I handed it over. It’s not that I’m such a great, big-hearted person, I’m just a sucker who can’t say “no.”
But I wasn’t able to figure out what this strange woman wanted. I didn’t invite her in out of the rain, and I didn’t see if I could help her. And it’s really bothering me now that I look back on it.
Then again, had I invited her into my home, she might have pulled a machete out of her plastic Target bag and chopped all our heads off. Okay, that scenario is probably the product of my very overactive imagination, but still — my first obligation is to keep my kids safe. If I feel uneasy about something, I trust my gut.
I wish I could just let it go, but I keep circling around and creating these absurd scenarios in my mind. What if she was an angel in disguise and I turned her away? What if she was an enchantress like in the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast and I judged her based on her appearance? What if I’d driven her to the place she asked me about and when we arrived, we were surrounded by police, busting her for a drug deal, and they thought I was involved?
How do you walk that fine line of wanting to help and teach your children the value of altruism, but also wanting to keep yourself and your family safe? Personally, I’ll continue to trust my gut, as it has served me well over the years. At the same time, I understand that sometimes I’m going to make a bad call — and I’m just going to have to make peace with that.More On