Stranger at the Door – Part Two

Heart and head; heart and head. My heart said, “Help him” and my head said, “Are you CRAZY? Who is this guy??” There did not seem to be any way to resolve the dilemma of this stranger at my door. He wanted a place to shelter for the night; I wanted him to be anywhere else but on my doorstep.

When Bill Parker arrived, he conjured up a lot of conflicting emotion; emotions I could not resolve. Finally, in exasperation, I told him to wait until I consulted with my husband. As it turned out, he had already asked my better half if he could stay the night, and had been told that he would have to get clearance from me. This was beginning to feel like a game of “pass-the buck” ping-pong.

Regardless, I tromped down to the barn, conferred with my husband and in the end, we let him stay for the night. Smuk (my hubbie’s nickname) felt that this stranger was harmless. Granted, Bill’s mannerisms and conversation were odd, but Smuk did not think these were reason enough to deny the poor fellow shelter. So, despite the warnings in my head, we gave him dinner and set him up in the garage. To be honest, if it were solely my decision, I would not have let Bill stay. Ultimately, the anxiety I felt would have outweighed any charitable inclinations I might have had, and I would have turfed the guy out into the sweltering heat and rain. So much for “innocent before proven guilty.”

Bill was gone in the morning before we got up. With a fair degree of relief, I surveyed the empty garage and was grateful that everything had turned out just as my husband had predicted. Bill was just a man, down on his luck, who needed a place to rest and a bit of food to eat.  He was definitely an odd character, but that should not have been enough to condemn him to my suspicion. If he had been a pleasant, well-mannered young man who reminded me of my son, I admit I would have been much more welcoming. Instead, Bill came across as someone more reminiscent of a homeless person than an adventurous, cross-Canada biker; a person, who by virtue of his crippled conversation, engendered fear and with that, a reluctance to help.

So, this whole episode raises questions in my mind. Is charity reserved for those I deem “acceptable”? When destitution and need arrive unexpectedly at my doorstep should they be sent away because they are nervous about asking for help, or speak with a jitteriness that reflects their anxiety? If I am only going to help people who are nice-looking and well-spoken, then monsters like Paul Bernardo will be the recipients of my charity and the Bill Parkers of the world will only get a door slammed in their faces. Concern for personal safety unquestionably trumps charitable action but when that fear is built on false assumptions based on appearance or speech, it needs to be re-examined.

Fear can strangle the heart out of any act of kindness; unwarranted suspicion can erode the generosity that should be extended to those who need it most. Will I react differently the next time a stranger like Bill Parker arrives at my door? I don’t know. All I do know is his appearance raised my awareness about the dual damnation of unconscious perception and unfair condemnation. Can I overcome these effects? Maybe – stranger things have happened.

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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 Two

  1. LADYBEADER says:

    Perhaps you are being too hard on yourself. Ultimately you took the “humane” and kind path, despite your reservations. Obviously the navel lint didn’t get in the way this time! LOL

  2. Connie says:

    Congratulations on your first 1000 views!

    • Lady Boomer says:

      Thanks Connie! Isn’t it exciting??!!

      These first 1000 views are a shared celebration between you and me, and all the other Lady Boomers who have contributed their voices to this blog. So thanks to YOU and all the other women who are a part of Lady Boomers!

  3. Stephanie says:

    Hi,
    Strangely enough, I met Bill Parker this morning while driving into London, On.
    He was pushing his heavily laden bicycle up a small grade and the cars ahead
    of me all passed him by. I was driving my little Mazda RZ 7, 1985 Vintage so
    there was no room for anyone but me, but I thought I’d stop and ask if everything
    was OK. He charmed me right on the spot with some of his stories about where
    he had been and where he was going. I am so glad that he wasn’t in any sort of
    difficulty as in a b roken wheel or something. He was very optimistic about his trip
    to Niagara Falls and then on to the East Coast and then home to Edmonton by
    Christmas. I enjoyed our chat, asked his permission to take a photo and we
    parted company with me given him some coffee money.

    He gave me a tremendous lift as he brought back memories of my Dad and
    how he would always stop to pick up hitch hiker or help other motorists
    along the way. Mr. Bill Parker was a reminder of a very pleasant time,
    that was his gift to me.

    It was not until some time later in the day that I thought about things and
    said to myself that another person might have thought they were perhaps
    putting themself in danger by stopping, or they just didn’t want to get
    involved etc. Well, all I know is that I didn’t think about any of that.
    I guess I got that gene from my Dad.

    I really enjoyed reading your encounter and hope that I will come across
    other ‘posts’ and find out how the story ends, or perhaps there is no
    ending.

    Cheers,

    Stephanie Hill, Thorndale

    • Lady Boomer says:

      Thanks for your note Stephanie! It is SO neat to read a follow up on Bill. He just sort of parachuted into our lives one day, and out the next. It sounds like Bill touched your life briefly too, and it is so lovely to hear how that chance encounter brought back memories of your Dad. He sounds like he was a special man.

  4. Chris says:

    Well, a stranger showed up at our door just as I was cooking supper tonight. My husband and I agreed to let him stay in our camper on the back lawn for the night. Feeling apprehensive, I thought I would google his name….and well, here’s where I ended up. His story was that he has been biking since April 2012 from Edmonton. Reading the above stories, I can see it’s been longer, but none the less, I do feel some relief knowing that others have survived and perhaps even been enightened by Bill’s visit.

  5. Lady Boomer says:

    Hi Chris – funny how Bill Parker keeps surfacing, year after year! And it’s good to know that he is OK, and still cycling down the road of life, helped out by strangers along the way. He is kind of an interesting “test” for all of us, isn’t he? By now, I expect Bill has left your place and headed out to his next stop. How did the experience turn out for you?

  6. alana Maginnis says:

    Here’s my collection of info about Bill Parker. Summer of 2011, in Princeton, ON we reluctantly allowed Bill Parker to spend the night in our shed; telling his “stories” of coming from Edmonton, Alberta and biking across Canada. But the following year, summer 2012 I read an article with his photo in the Ayr News(local newspaper from Ayr, ON) stating the same “story”. As of last night, May 6, 2013, he was spending the night again in Princeton, ON. A nervous and reluctant neighbour allowed him to spend the night in his trailer. This morning (May 7, 2013) he has been spotted heading towards Woodstock, ON. When I heard that he returned to the area I googled his name and found many similar stories of his travels with the oldest one dating back to 2008.
    Therefore, this man has spent the past 5 years, predominately in Ontario living off of the generosity and compassion of primarily rural residents.

    Bill Parker – Vagabond

  7. Keith says:

    Bill is here in Drumbo. He must be taking the scenic route to wherever he’s headed. Had some beers and shot the breeze. June 07, 2013

    Keith

  8. Doug Ronan says:

    I picked Billy Parker up today on hwy 12 near Brechin, Ontario – took him out for lunch and then brought him back to my place to stay the night in our old office trailer. I think this is the 3rd time he has stayed with us in the past few years. He’s a bit different but aren’t we all – he’s a pleasant fellow – who doesn’t do any harm in this world!! If he knocks on your door I would not be concerned!! I guarantee you will be somewhat entertained by his stories!!
    Doug Ronan

  9. Fran says:

    Met Bill Sept. 9, 2015, as he was walking his bike between London and St. Thomas, ON. He turned down my offer of help, but asked if he could pitch his tent in our yard when he got to St. Thomas. I said that my husband would probably be ok with it, but he didn’t show up that evening. He did turn up the next day, explaining that he spent the night at a farmer’s place along the way. He had a beer with my husband while I made supper (mostly leftovers, as I wasn’t expecting company), ate with us, and then took his leftovers outside, where he set up his tent for the night. He was gone before 7:30 the next morning. A bit of an unusual guy, but seemed to be earnest and harmless.
    Oh, and I do believe he said he was headed to Tobermory.

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