This experience happened last winter, about a month before Tarica started seizing. Now that snow is flying again, I remember this and wonder if I did the right thing.
* * *
The doorbell rang while I was in the middle of changing Micah. When a second peal quickly followed the first, I scooped up my diaper-clad baby, wrapped a blanket around him, and raced down the steps. As I reached the bottom of the stairs, I glanced at the sofa, grateful to see the doorbell hadn’t awakened Tarica. She had been stricken with the stomach virus less than two hours ago.
At the door, a stranger waited, wind-blown and worried-looking. Snow swirled around the young man, catching in his red beard and on his narrow shoulders. Before I could say a word, he said, “Sorry for bothering you, but could you give me a ride to Kettle Road?”
I snugged the blanket around a small bare shoulder, mentally scrambling for something kinder than a flat refusal. “I’m sorry, but I can’t. My daughter is sick, and I need to take care of him.” I gestured toward my wriggling bundle.
“No one else is around that could give me a ride?”
Was that a leap of fear I felt? “No, I’m sorry. Not right now.”
He bounced on his toes. “Do you think anyone’s home over there?” He pointed to a neighbor’s house through the trees.
“I have no idea,” I said, realizing I could fit what I knew about those neighbors in the bowl of a spoon. They had kept to themselves ever since moving in last summer. I pointed in the opposite direction. “You could try the people on the other side of us. Someone is often home during the day.”
“The next house down?” He began a retreat down the drive.
“Yes.” Something pinched inside me. “Did your car break down?” I asked.
He turned back. “Yeah, it did.” He shook himself and thrust his hands deep into his pockets. “It’s cold out here.”
That was an understatement: It was a brutally frigid day, with a wind that cut to the bone. “I hope you can get a ride.” My words sounded lame in the face of his plight. “Sorry I can’t help you.” I closed the door as he walked away.
From a window, I watched his hunched form swing down the driveway. Doubt squeezed my heart. Had I done the right thing? I couldn’t bundle my sick daughter into the van right after she got sick. My baby needed to eat as soon as I got him dressed. But I had just said something very close to “depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled.”
The young man turned onto the road and soon was out of my sight. I frowned at the spot where he had disappeared. Had I turned away an extraordinary opportunity? What if that young man with his red beard and thin coat was an angel? Far-fetched, maybe, but it was possible. That verse in Hebrews 13 says we are to entertain strangers because they might be “angels unawares.” I should have at least given him a cup of coffee. It isn’t every day I can serve an angel.
But maybe he wasn’t an angel. Maybe he was a violent young man with evil intentions. Maybe my veiled head stayed his hand. But he seemed sincere. How is a woman to know in this wicked age when to show generous compassion and when to be reserved and play it safe? On one hand, strangers can be dangerous; on the other, strangers can be angels in disguise. What should I have done?
Well, it didn’t matter. Tarica was sick. And he was gone. But if I did the right thing, why did I feel guilty? I stared out at the snow flying in the wind and wondered if an angel would mind the cold.
* * *
What do you think? Are we women too careful? Do we lose opportunities to show compassion because of our caution around strangers? If we trust God, can we help a stranger without fear?
My daughter was sick; I had little choice. But what if she hadn’t been sick? I still don’t know what I would’ve done.