I’d Rather Be Thought a Fool


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.

17 comments on “I’d Rather Be Thought a Fool

  1. I’m the overly cautious type myself. I’m filled with compassion, but I don’t like the idea of handing it out at the door like Halloween candy. I’m glad to hear it was a positive experience for you. My mom does the same thing, but like D’Bear I tell her to be careful, because you never can tell. 😉

    Peter P.- Your mother and I have that in common then. I didn’t feel like I was giving him a handout- just a hand UP! I know however that you’re right and that caution is something I must learn. Thanks, Spidey. hugs

  2. I am very paranoid and afraid of everyone who walks down my street but we have been robbed many times. I’m glad it turned out alright for you and that man was fortunate to have gone to your door. I never answer my door if I don’t know the person and I sometimes don’t answer it if I do. I hate feeling so paranoid but I can’t seem to help it these days.

    At the same time I am glad you were able to help someone who did an honest job for you.

    joan- I unfortunately have no fear of people. I almost always believe that they are good so I am not as careful as I should be. I don’t pick up hitchhikers but I WANT to ’cause I always feel so sad for them….. I have been lucky so far. 🙂

  3. I’m afraid I would have been getting yelled at too.

    Good on you for giving someone a helping hand 🙂

    bettina- Yeah, it was yelling but in a way it felt good to know he worried about me. 🙂
    Thanks, sweet Bettina!

  4. Well, it would be kind of silly for him to rob you afterwards since you would easily be able to identify him. But I can totally see D’Bear’s point too. A woman home alone, blah, blah, blah. The thing that sucks is there will most likely be lots more of this type of thing and then there will be more people who use it as a scam. Still, I’m glad there are people like you in the world and I bet that guy sure as hell is too. You have to go with your instincts – they are usually right.

    teeni- I’m afraid you’re right about there being more hungry people looking for help and the scams will probably come too. My parents talked about the Great Depression in the same way we’re discussing our financial downturn right now. So many people lost everything. I never want to turn away from helping someone who is willing to help themselves.
    Thanks, teeni, for your comments. You always make such thoughful ones!

  5. You’ve gotta love D’Bear for being so concerned for your welfare. Yes, one has to be cautious – and I DO see D’Bear’s point of view. But you also have to trust your instinct. This man was genuine and I think in your heart you knew that.

    And again, you’ve gotta love it that D’Bear’s heart was in the right place and he was fearful for your safety. The man obviously loves you so very, very much to have such an agitated reaction.

    anja- yes **blushing** I think he does indeed love me. I’m not used to having someone look out for me in that way. It’s NICE!
    He did have my interests at heart when he got upset. That helped me listen to his point of view about being more cautious. We have the BEST conversations! He actually listens! Wow! I didn’t know guys did that in a relationship! 😉 I’m learning so much!
    Thanks, anja! You da best!

  6. I am glad that it turned out well. So many times it does not. You were lucky.

    evyl- It did turn out well….well so far we haven’t been robbed!! I hope I am right about the man! And yes, I AM lucky. I realize that now. At the time I didn’t really consider the danger and THAT was stupid of me.

  7. I had a young man ring my door bell once. He told me something about a challenge, that he was a part of… Asked me if I’d like him to show me what exactly that was. He reached into his back pocket, and that’s when I slammed the door in his face. I was so scared that whatever it was in his pocket, might have been a gun. He kicked my door a couple of times, and I called the police.

    This was back in Phoenix, and crime is a problem there. Not so much here in Oregon, and especially in my town.

    Another time though I was driving in the freeway (also in Phoenix and it was 110F). At the freeway exit stood an old man with a cardboard sign. I handed him $20 and told him to get out of the sun. He gave me the nicest smile, packed his things and left.

    I don’t know if I would open the door… home alone and all… but I’m so glad you did. This man won’t forget you. 🙂

    SLF- That guy in Phoenix must have scared the beejeezus outa you!! Did the cops catch him? Inquiring minds want to know!!
    I once saw a man standing in the cold on the corner in our town with a sign that said “will work for food” so I gave him my business card and told him I would give him a days work if he showed up but he never did. Hey, he probably raked in a few bills the easy way but I don’t easily do handouts to able-bodied people. (((shrug)))
    Thanks for your great comments!

  8. I would have done exactly as you did. I am far too trusting and always giving everyone the benefit of the doubt – I’ve never had any reason not to. Maybe it’s because I was raised in a small town where we always leave our doors unlocked and everyone helps each other…even strangers.

    I’m so trusting that I even gave a hitchhiker a ride one time. When I got up the courage to admit that I had given a complete stranger a ride my friends and family yelled at me and said, “You’re lucky you didn’t end up dead in a ditch!” Yeah, well, I didn’t. But I don’t know if I’d do it again.

    2LD- someone said recently that this “recession” is bringing people closer together and ya know? They may be right. It will probably bring out the best AND the worst in people. I am and have always been trusting and like you, have never had a good reason NOT to be.
    And hitchhikers make me sad but they just reek of horror movies I’ve seen too many times where the meek guy turns into a psycho and knifes the woman and dismembers the body in gruesome fashion. Yeah…like that. I can’t pick up hitchhikers…ewwww

  9. I would have done that too! I love you and D’ bear but, i would have done it!

    kaylee- Now see, I worry about YOU doing it! I can do it but not you. It’s too dangerous! 😳

  10. I already told you on the phone that I never answer the door to strangers and blah blah blah. You have such a good heart… just be careful! I don’t want you to get stabbed in it! 😛

    I hope that if he WAS casing the place, your kindness made him re-think it. Not that he was, but you never know.

    birdpress- aww shucks, I promise to be more careful..I guess. if I have to…
    Yeah, if he was casing the place I doubt my handing him a bag of food is going to make him change his mind but it would make a nice Hallmark Movie of the Week, wouldn’t it?

  11. I don’t know how big (or small) D’Bear’s yard is, but you got a deal. My brother and I didn’t rake a yard for less than $15 and that was back in the 80s.

    BTW: Bam! You’ve been hit by a meme (terribly sorry old chap, but you know the rules). Check out my site if you wanna participate.

    dobeman- well, it is a small yard and at that rate, about $24 an hour, it wasn’t bad money considering I actually gave him $20! 🙂
    Good to see your spirit of entrepreneurship was alive and well even back then!
    As for the meme, I will go check that out! ((sigh))

  12. I think you did the right thing 🙂 And I totally give you permission to make me a sack lunch someday, haha.

    I mean, you have to take chances sometimes, right? Otherwise nothing works and the world becomes a less good place.

    And thanks so much for your nice comment! 🙂

    chadhend- HA! Our fridge never has much in it but what is there is usually pretty good: cheeses, cured meats, olives, fruit, etc! A gourmet bag lunch for you whenever you like! Oh, the peanut butter was “all natural”! Nothing but the best for the hungry of Rochester! heheehehe!
    Thank YOU for stopping by my humble blog home!

  13. it’s hard to say no . . but today, you have to.
    I don’t open the door to anyone I dont know. and then, sometimes I dont open for folks I DO know 🙂

    it was a very nice gesture, trisha . . I could totally see you doing it – Im just glad nothing bad did happen from it.

    Red, Me, too! I am feeling rather foolish though the longer I think about it. Ah, well, no harm, no foul. 🙂

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