Rants and Wisdom
On a recent Friday in the late afternoon there was a knock at my home’s door. Dusk was approaching. My inclination to avoid those unknown to me kicked in. I dislike opening the door when I’m alone. A LOT. I have a deep and well-earned suspicion of being conned, assaulted even.
Once, in a Boston hotel, I had an altercation with an assailant who broke open my locked door and threatened me. Then there is the distrust one naturally gains over a lifetime of city living. I’ve lived in an urban environment (both in Boston and Baltimore) my entire adult life. I’ll never forget the Halloween when kids pushed me back into my home demanding more candy: “Give me the candy, bitch!”
No, I do not trust strangers.
Is it any surprise I don’t feel generous opening my door to someone I don’t know?
I still don’t know why, then, I opened the door that Friday evening. I could see that outside was an observant Jewish couple – the man wore a yarmulke. The woman was very pregnant and looked exhausted. Perhaps it was that, the connection between a tired, pregnant young woman and one who’s been there, done that.
I opened the door.
As his wife leaned heavily on the railing the husband explained that they had left the hospital with false labor and gotten lost. Now the Sabbath was upon them. For conservative Jews certain acts of Melacha (loosely translated as “work”) are avoided at Sabbath. One thing that is Melacha is driving a car.
The husband asked if I could drive them home. Ummmm…NO!
It was Friday evening. I wanted to relax with my husband. Cook dinner. Do MY life. My life has been anything BUT easy lately. He then asked if I could keep his things for him, pushing his cell phone and keys into my hand. He pointed out the old white van at my curb and said he would be back Saturday night to get it and his things when the Sabbath ended.
My suspicious mind was still whirling, but now it was pondering on their behalf. How did he know he could trust me, a total stranger, with his belongings? Would he even remember where his keys were?
I asked how they would get home. They said they would walk and the wife stated: “God will provide.”
I asked where home was. Reistertown. What?! Wow. That is ten miles away from my home in Roland Park.
I looked at her again. I am very wary of strangers. But she was very pregnant. I could not let them walk ten miles home. That was NOT ok. I couldn’t have her deliver a baby on the sidewalk, for chrisssake.
We got in my car. Darkness was quickly approaching. Shabbat, the time of rest and cessation. They could not open the car door or put on seatbelts: “It’s the Shabbat.” I opened the back car door and the woman lay down, obviously weary and uncomfortable in late pregnancy. I put on their seat belts.
The husband asked if I was Jewish. I explained I was half. “Mother?” he asked. “No, my father” I replied.
He shrugged as if to say, “Goy,” but I guess I was close enough. Besides, I was their best bet to get home.
I drove them home hoping that I had made the right choice. I’m not sure who was more nervous. I had a carload of strangers I was driving to an unfamiliar neighborhood. For them, God would have to forgive them this ride.
When we arrived I took off their seat belts, opened doors and I put their belongings on their table. I wished them luck. They thanked me as he grabbed his big black hat and rushed off to Friday Sabbath service at the synagogue.
As I left the woman looked at me, smiled and said, “God will provide thanks for you, too.”
I’ll take that! The last few months have been difficult for me. I could use a little divine intervention.
Fair trade for paying it forward.