By: Jeanne Reynolds
It was just before 10 p.m. on a cold Thursday night when the doorbell rang.
I had already gone upstairs to get ready for bed. My husband was in the living room watching college basketball on T.V. Most of the downstairs lights were on, so it was obvious someone was home and up, but still … 10 p.m.? That’s never a good thing.
“Maybe you shouldn’t open the door,” I called down. Our front door doesn’t have a chain, so it’s kind of all or nothing.
But he did, to see what he later described as a soft-spoken woman in her ’30s or ’40s wearing a white coat.
“I was led to come here,” she told him.
“Are you in trouble?” he asked.
She said no, and when he gently pointed out it was 10 o’clock at night, she replied, “I understand,” and walked away down our front path. We didn’t see where she went, and didn’t notice or hear a car nearby.
The whole thing was a little scary, so we called the sheriff’s department that serves our rural northeast Columbia community. A short while later, an officer arrived to check around our home and the neighborhood. He saw nothing then, and we didn’t hear anything later.
The officer agreed we’d done the right thing. Maybe the woman was only a well-meaning religious evangelist with poor time management, but then again maybe she was mentally unstable or on drugs, or had a weapon in her pocket or an accomplice waiting out of sight. For perhaps the first time, I could understand why people keep a gun in their homes. At the very least, I thought about getting the old aluminum softball bat out of the garage to keep under the bed.
But as we settled somewhat uneasily into bed later that evening, we also felt some doubt. We wondered where the woman might have gone on such a cold night and if she was OK. We hoped the officer found her and was able to help her. We also hoped God would understand if one day we stand before him and he says, “I came to you when it was cold and dark, and you turned me away.”
I’ve had similar thoughts when driving down the road and seeing a motorist in apparent trouble, but haven’t stopped for fear of becoming a victim myself. A woman alone just can’t take that chance, I reasoned. It’s sometimes a struggle finding the line between wanting to do the right thing and wanting to be safe.
Once – just once – I did give a ride to a man I saw walking down a rural road in the rain. He had no umbrella because both hands were in use holding what appeared to be a cake box. Indeed, it turned out to be a birthday cake for an elderly relative. I was on my way to church that night, and maybe that was why I stopped. Or maybe I figured he couldn’t easily attack me with his hands full, and anyone carrying food in the rain couldn’t have much ill intent.
I’m not sure I believe God sends us tests, but I do know life brings events that can test our faith. Yet if I had it do over, I still wouldn’t have invited that woman in. In fact, if my husband wasn’t home, I wouldn’t have answered the door at all.
But I’m also still not sure I’m right.