Stranger on the Doorstep

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.

5 thoughts on “Stranger on the Doorstep

  1. I believe we should ask our husbands what they want us to do in a situation like this. Because of how perverted society is nowadays we cannot be too cautious. Jesus did not throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple because the angels would protect Him. That was tempting God. (Matthew 4) We can offer to call someone for help or give him our phone so that he can call someone.

  2. You did right, Stephanie, no guilt. Let the men take care of the men and the women, the women. Your family comes first and God knows your heart. Thanks to Him that it was a safe encounter. Thanks to Him always. <

  3. I’ve wondered the same thing. You can’t keep kicking yourself now for something that happened way back, but rather learn from it. If we practice being keen to the Spirit, can we trust He will speak in situations like this and tell us what to do? If we’re cautious, and yet have a caring giving heart, won’t He bless that? We’re on a farm down a country road and various men, neighbors, hunters, salesman, you name it, stop in. Do I invite them in from the cold to state their business, or do we visit with the door open a crack? Or what?!

  4. Just a thought….maybe God allowed Tarica to be sick at this time so you could say no, knowing your family came first.

    • You know, Karen, I have often thought the same, that God protected me from having to make a difficult decision. I can go in circles thinking about it. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *