Posts Tagged ‘strangers’

I was a young girl. Not a toddler and not yet a teen. Maybe nine or ten years old. Old enough to be out and about with friends. We were always playing outside. No one wanted to be in the house.

On this particular day, I was with a pal named Paula and her sister Kerri. Hanging on the swings at the local park. I suppose it was where everyone in our neighborhood eventually spent some time. There was also a football stadium, tennis courts and basketball court. So in good weather there was always activity. The wind was always blowing around the distant voices of kids you knew.  It was a middle class neighborhood. Usually not a lot of extra coin but not poor. Everyone pretty much felt safe. We all knew each other.

It eventually became time to leave the park. The girls and I were about to cross the parking lot to head home. A car slowly rolls up in the corner of the big parking lot. One male occupant in a Dodge Dart. Don’t ask me the color. It was probably forty-four years ago.

I do, however, remember what color he was. He was white and looked like the mustached and afroed Gabe Kaplan, who starred as Mr. Kotter on “Welcome back, Kotter.” A U.S. television program from the 1970s.

This man starts talking to us and asking us questions. Then the guy pulls out this thing. No, not that thing!

It was a hand grip strengthener. Back then I wouldn’t have known what to call it. This is an exercise tool that one uses to strengthen their grip. You can search google images to see what it looks like.

Continued to ask us questions -like an important survey. I do not remember any of that long ago conversation but the one thing I can still recall is he wanted each of us girls to try the hand gripper. And we did. No harm in that, right? We weren’t afraid. Just a trio of friendly and super helpful kids.

Anyhow, we continue on our way back home. I say goodbye to the girls and then I head toward my house one block away from theirs. Never thinking about anything except it was a very nice time at the park with my friends.

Well, one of the girls mentioned the guy in the car to their mom. Warning signals must have gone off in her head (as they should have in any adult’s head) so she called my mom and the police. We soon got a visit from the police asking me numerous questions about this guy. A description of him and his vehicle.

That was that.

Looking back, I don’t know what this man’s intentions were and one could almost shudder with the thought. After the police interviewed us we came to realize that it was wrong in some way. But we didn’t even know how or why.

We knew he was a stranger. He wasn’t from our neighborhood and yet we still talked to this nice adult. As innocent children might. Even with all the warnings we received about bad guys and strangers.

I guess that was the introduction to our vulnerability. We didn’t even know it.

“You need to be careful.”





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I was driving back to my parents’ home in the extreme heat after some errands.

On the road I passed a tall, slender, black man. His young son trudging beside him. The dad was carrying the kid’s backpack. I guessed the kid’s age to be about five or six years old.

No one else strolling in the heat.

I thought that I should have stopped and offered them a ride. Due to the weather being oppressive. And because of the trudging little kid.

But. In my head I volleyed.

If he were a white man with his son would I offer a ride? I don’t normally encourage the picking up of strangers.

White guilt? Savior complex? Trayvon Martin on my mind? Some type of penance? Representing my race?

Finally, I  hung a right hand turn and cut through some streets to see if they were still there.

There just shouldn’t be that much thinking to do the right thing. This is the problem.

Maybe if there was a bit more thinking before doing a wrong thing then we wouldn’t have this problem.

I  opened the window and asked if they were all right and where they were heading. He smiled and said, “We are going to the Four Seasons apartments.”

“Do you need a ride?”

The guy says, “No, but thank you.”

And the sweaty, little, round-faced boy immediately pipes up, “YES! We need a ride!”

I laughed out loud and said, “Get in.”

The kid was coming back from camp at the playground. Where I used to go every summer when I was a child. He liked it.

The little guy said from the back seat, “My stomach feels better already.”

As I dropped them off the dad thanked me profusely and asked my name. I told him and he said his name was Edward. Then I asked the little mister what his name was and he also said, “Edward.” I was like, “Little Mister Junior.” And then we said goodbye.

I turned the car around and poked my head out the window, ” Edward, where did you get that accent?’

He says, “Sierra Leone, West Africa.”

“How long have you been here?”

“One year.”

“Do you like it?”

Big smile. “Oh, yes.”

“Best of luck.”

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Mentos. A seemingly harmless sugary, chewy candy.

Annie and I were on our way from California to Rhode Island to spend time with family before moving across the world to Kuala Lumpur. We had a short layover in Vegas.

Once we got settled on the flight from Vegas to Providence a young man headed our way. We said he could have the aisle seat if he wanted it. His long legged self was so very grateful.

So, when the plane started to ascend his thanks was in the form of a proffered wrapped tube of Mentos. To chew so our ears wouldn’t be bothered with the changes in altitude. But instead of letting us take it from the package on our own he took out each candy with his own little fingers and handed it to us.

All I could think of was this. After six months of vaccinations (Typhoid, Influenza, Hepatitis A, B, C, J, K, L, ;, and numerous others) we could possibly be taken down by a well meaning stranger with dirty hands! Just after me writing about Typhoid Mary and the dangers of killer diseases passed on by unclean hands when handling foods!

So, what did we do? Yup, we ate the Mentos. And we thanked him for it. With a quick prayer offered up that our good manners would not harm us. Only help us during our ascension into the heavens.

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