In the post-supper quiet of a Sunday evening, as I was
dozing reading at the dining table, our ever-alert team of Home Defense Dachshunds gave notice that there was SOMEONE AT THE DOOR!!! After clearing our crack security team into the back bedroom, one under each arm, My Dear Wife asked me to see who it was.
There stood a woman, no older than I for sure, peering out from under the hood of a raincoat. She asked if we had any chores or work that needed to be done, as she was trying to earn some money for a hotel room, since she and her daughter had just become homeless. I wished right then that I had piles of laundry to fold, mountains of dishes to wash, and a pile of cash with which to pay someone to do them, but I had none of those things. We had folded the clean laundry just the night before; the dishes were in the dishwasher; and I have all of three dollars in my pocket. I told her I was sorry, but I had neither work for her to do nor money to pay her for it, and before I had a chance to offer her anything else, like some food, she was gone.
The cynic will suggest that she may have been “casing the joint,” or trying to hustle money for drugs, or had some other nefarious scheme in mind. I doubt it, though of course I can’t be sure, and I put our bicycles away soon afterward. That’s not what troubled me about the incident, though. Drug habits are nasty creatures, and I sympathize with anyone battling those demons. If they need a couple of bucks to get through to tomorrow, I won’t begrudge it.
What bothered me more was, first of all, that my hospitality skills were so rusty that I couldn’t even make a timely offer of something to tide her over. Secondly, on further review, I realized that I have absolutely no idea of whom to turn to with such a crisis. We’ve lived here since the first of August and hardly know anyone, either in our neighborhood or in the city. We are not yet members of any spiritual community or civic organization, though we are making some halting progress on that front. But tonight I was as lost in my new city, right there on my front steps, as if I had been driving at night in a rainstorm. We’ve got a ways to go in learning our way around.