On Friday I was at D’Bear’s house in Rochester while he was at work. I was doing a little straightening and baking some cookies for the get together with the neighbors later when the doorbell rang. I don’t know which door to go to since there is the front door and then there is a side door which everyone who knows D’Bear uses. I went to the front door thinking that’s where a doorbell is most likely located.
A man was walking away by the time I got to the right door. I thought at first he was the UPS man because I could see a UPS truck out by the curb in front of the house next door. This man wasn’t wearing the “Brown” but I asked him if I could help him , thinking he may be a meter reader since I do know they come around to read the gas meters here.
He turned to me and said “Ma’am,my name is Kenny ******. Lots of people in this neighborhood know me. Would you like me to rake the leaves from your front yard? I sure could use the work ’cause I have no food for tonight.”
He was a slender black man of about 40-years old. He appeared clean and quiet and non-threatening. I started to say “No” but only because D’Bear has a leaf blower and that was one of things I had planned to do that day. However when I looked at that face all I could think of was: here is a man asking for help. Not a handout. Just some help.
Now in my community back in Northeast Pennsylvania I seldom see African-Americans or Asians or even Hispanics. We have a fairly uniform white populace. I have lived there for 27 years. Rochester is much more diversified racially. I have no real prejudices that I know of so this black man didn’t even make a blip on my radar as a man of color, only as a man in need. I’ve been in situations in my past where the opportunity for any kind of work would have been a lifesaver. The thought of someone going without food even for a night breaks my heart when I am so blessed with food in the refrigerator all the time!
I asked him how much he wanted to rake the yard and he hesitated only a moment before saying ” $12.00 okay?”
I said “Sure! That would be great. Just ring the bell again when you’re done and I’ll come out and pay you. By the way, are you hungry now?” “He said “No, ma’am, but some food for later would be much appreciated.”
It was a crisp and chilly day as he began to rake the leaves but he removed his sweatshirt and hung it on the shrubbery along the driveway. I went back inside and placed some bread, a jar of peanut butter, some grapes, cheese, and a half of a stick of pepperoni I had in a bag along with a plastic container of juice. In about a half an hour he rang the bell and I gave him the money ( I made it $20) and the bag of food. He looked at me and said “You’re gonna make me cry. That is so kind of you. Thank you.”
I said “It’s my pleasure. You did a great job on the lawn!” He had! It was clean and all the leaves had been neatly raked to the curb.
He put his sweatshirt on and walked a little ways and then turned back and smiled at me as he walked on.
I closed the door just as the phone rang. It was D’Bear. I told him what had just happened and I told him the man’s name, asking D’Bear if he knew of him and he immediately said ” NO! I have never heard of him! WE DON”T do that! That’s dangerous! There have been lots of house invasions in this area lately!! Don’t EVER do that again!” and he was sort of shouting.
I said, “Well, I did it. I won’t do it again. But I usually read people well and this man seemed to be no threat. My only stupidity may have been to open the door to a stranger at all!” D’Bear must have taken a moment to think about what I had said because he apologized and said “I trust your instincts. I was just frightened for you AND he could have been casing the place so he could come back and rob us later.”
Huh?? Ok, maybe I am naive but would a man actually rake your leaves in order to canvas your yard and see if he could break in later? I guess it’s possible but it kinda makes me giggle. “The Yardman Bandit”! Or the “the Roving Rakeman Robber”! heeheehee!!
D’Bear and I have talked about this a lot since Friday. He has since told me that I have a good heart even if I am kinda innocent in the ways of city life, and he feels bad for having shouted and said those things. He even offered to give me the $12 since it was for HIS yard! (I didn’t tell him I made it $20) We had a long talk about race and the lack of jobs for unskilled workers in the city and about how one goes about being a good neighbor. I think maybe I taught him a lesson in giving and compassion. He taught me to be more cautious about opening the door to strangers. He’s right. But I’m still glad I did.