Mid-morning my doorbell rang with a short knock to follow. Thinking it might be the two young women who occasionally drop by to convert me. They are so pleasant, I enjoy chatting with them as I stand in my doorway.
This time it was a young woman, very tiny and rather rattled. She told me she “cleaned houses,” and needed work. She opened a cloth bag she carried on her shoulder with a bottle of bleach in it.
I stepped out onto my front porch to hear her story. She told me she was desperate for work as her utilities had been shut off and she couldn’t cook food for her children. She said she had contacted the city utility company to no avail.
As we talked, I learned she has five children from one month to seventeen who has diabetes, no husband, and the father of those children will not pay child support. Though not wanting to become too involved, I did tell her the state would make him pay child support.
She said she had knocked on many doors seeking work, but no on responded. At that, tears rolled down her cheeks and she asked for a drink of water and a paper towel to wipe her face. I suggested she sit on my porch chair and filled a glass of water, pulled off a paper towel and pulled ten dollars out of my wallet. While she drank the water and told me a bit about herself, I suggested places to seek help. She didn’t seem eager to follow through, but that could have been a judgement call on my part. I enjoy connecting folks with resources when help is needed.
As many of us have faced tough times in our lives, I could emphasize, but remained cautious. These kind of situations really bother me long after the person has left. Did I do the right thing? Did I give enough or should I have given more? Was she telling the truth about not having food for her children or was she planning on buying drugs or alcohol? Was she casing the neighborhood for someone who planned to break in? One reason I stepped out rather than inviting her inside. We are told to be our brother and sisters keepers. Does this mean every time?
All sorts of questions floated in my brain.
In this situation, should I have reacted differently? Would you? Would you have invited her inside?