Stranger at the Door – Part One

It was a miserably hot afternoon and intermittent drizzle teased the parched grass with speckles of rain. The clouds were low; the humidity was high. Movement of any kind resulted in puddles of sweat that oozed listlessly on your skin.

From my kitchen window I saw a scrawny, middle-aged stranger on a heavily laden bicycle standing in my driveway. Numerous bags, sacks and paraphernalia were strapped to the small metal frame, threatening to topple both man and bike. After struggling to set the bike onto its stand, he approached the door.

“My name is Bill Parker. From Edmonton, Alberta. I’m biking across Canada. I was wondering if I could sleep in your garage tonight?” His speech was peculiar –  staccato and disjointed, almost as if someone had hit the “play” button” on a tape recorder that wasn’t working properly.

Surprised, curious, annoyed, sympathetic, scared…..I was taken aback and didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to turn the poor guy away but I didn’t know if I could trust a total stranger who just turned up at my door. A tug of war started up in my head. If this had been my son looking for shelter from strangers, I would hope that they would overcome their fears and offer him sanctuary from the weather. On the other hand, this fellow was really nervous and the abrupt head bob punctuating the end of every sentence emphasized his tension – and exaggerated mine. What did he have to be so nervous about?

“Nice place you have here” he noted as his eyes swept the house, the pool, the two-car garage and the barn. “What do you and your husband do?” Alarm bells started ringing in my head and my gut. Was this an awkward attempt at polite conversation, or was he sizing us up?

And so the conversation went; I seesawed between sympathy and skepticism. What could be simple social gestures from this stranger could be interpreted as pleasantries – or a potential assessment of assets. Perhaps this was simply a socially awkward man – or was he a criminal with unlawful intent? Every time I thought I could relent and tell him it was fine for him to stay, he would say or do something that would re-ignite my fear.

How would you have handled a stranger at your door, seeking shelter, and what would you have done? There is no hotel close to us that I could send him to, no hostel, no place of respite for miles. The weather was closing in and the heat was stifling. My gut was telling me to send him on his way; my heart was telling me to give him a place to stay. My head was warning me not to allow his dilemma to become my problem; my spirit was telling me that if someone needs help we should do what we can. I was as surprised at my hesitation to help this man, as I was disappointed in my lack of generosity.

There were two strangers at my door that afternoon – and one of them was me. Who would you be if a stranger knocked on your door?

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About Lady Boomer

A voice for lady boomers, Bette Hodgins is a writer, life enthusiast and navel-gazer. Unfortunately navel lint keeps cluttering up her path to enlightenment, but she is nothing if not persistent in her journey of life!
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11 Responses to Stranger at the Door – Part One

  1. LADYBEADER says:

    I totally understand your skepticism. Unfortunate that in these days, we do have to think with our heads and not just with our hearts.

  2. Mary says:

    Haven’t you opened a can of worm here! Mixing up christian charity with fear of strangers (odd strangers, at that).

    I very much enjoyed your writing, by the way. I could feel the heat.

    Pushing aside my upbringing to “lend a hand to those in need”, I would tell (or ask) the fellow to sit on the curb (preferably under a tree) and wait for my decision. I would tell him that I was going inside to get him a drink of water and maybe some fruit to eat, and lock the doors behind me. I would phone the police and tell them of my situation. I would go outside again, locking the doors and give the stranger the drink and fruit, telling him it would be inappropriate for me AND MY HUSBAND to allow him to say in the garage, and we already had a house filled with sleepers that night. I would tell him that I hope he didn’t mind but I called 911 to ask them what I should do for him and they said they are sending over a patrol car to help you locate a place to stay for the night. If he didn’t act too weird, or bolt on his bike, I might sit on the grass near him and ask about his cross Canada bike trip. After the police settled the situation, I’d likely go back indoors (lock them) and hope that the stranger was well on his way.

    So – what are you going to do?

  3. Lady Boomer says:

    Hi Mary
    Thanks for commenting! I always look forward to what you have to say! As for what I did about the stranger at my door – well, that’s coming soon in my next post!

  4. Carley Jay says:

    Although I don’t know how I would react until I was faced with the situation, I think my instinct for self-preservation might trump any charitable impulses in this case. I might offer to provide a sandwich and cold drink but that’s about as far as I’d go.

  5. Pingback: Stranger at the Door – Part Two | Lady Boomers

  6. Chris Mederak says:

    Today I was faced with the same situation and with the same “gentleman”. Like you I was torn but was alone at the time and my husband wouldn’t be home from work for a couple of hours. I told Bill that and he said if he didn’t find a place to stay before my husband came home he would come back and ask us again. We have a workshop out back with a wood burning stove and it seems he spotted it from the highway and figured it would be a warm place to stay. He asked for a can of pop and went on his way. I quickly locked the doors and went on my computer to check him out. I also made a phone call to one of the people who had put him up for a night in October. They were surprised he was still in the area having told him he was heading home…… He never came back but I am still nervous yet sad that I never got to know him a little better. Mixed feelings for sure. He was indeed eccentric and some of his comments made the hair on my neck stand up because he started talking about some torture rack used on a man too tall for that torture and so on and so on….it was bizarre to say the least. Even if I had let him stay my doors would definitely have still stayed locked and I would have taken his meals out to the workshop.

    • Lady Boomer says:

      Hi Chris! Interesting to hear that Bill is still peddling around the country. I guess it really is about the journey and not the destination for him…..In fact I’m not convinced he actually has a destination in mind beyond a place to sleep and a meal each night!

      • Chris Mederak says:

        I think you are right and I am surprised he has been at this for so long and nobody has hurt him during his travels. He must be very trusting as well. I still feel unsettled about him pounding on my door and perhaps it’s because I am rural and vulnerable that I am not so quick to let a stranger in while I am alone.

      • Lady Boomer says:

        I totally understand what you are saying, having had the same misgivings myself. And if you read some of the other comments on this post, you will see that we are in good company!

  7. Fran says:

    There are more “Billy Parker” stories on the blog “Take the Lane”. The man who started the blog is no longer doing it, but you can still find the stories; just google Bill’s name, with the word “bike”; when you get to a story, you can find more by going into the archives.

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