I was still working on my thesis data last night at about 1.00am; I remember looking at the time shown on my computer, 1.18am to be more precise – when Yani came to my study looking a bit concerned and told me that somebody was at the door. I was quite worried as well as I didn’t know anybody who would be visiting at this time of the night. I woke Indy up from his bed and turned on the hallway and the porch lights.
With trepidation I opened the front door, while holding on to Indy’s collar. Outside in the porch is a lady who was a bit incoherent – she asked me whether I could help her. She was fidgetty and I asked her what she needed. She was probably in her late 20’s and only had a bag with her. I couldn’t hear what she said – I would’ve given her some food or some sustenance for the night if that was what she needed. Then she said – in a roundabout way – whether she could stay in the house for the night. Throughout my time in Australia, I had never experienced something as bizarre as this. I told her no, that I couldn’t help her with that. She asked me who else lived with me in the house but I didn’t answer that question.
I recalled seeing her and her friend or sister at the local servo a week ago, when the attendant chided one of them for coming and stealing so brazenly. He told her that he convinced his boss not to call the police when they stole the last time so he tried to plead with them not to do anything silly this time, otherwise he would have to call the police.
So, with my rejection, she left and I turned off the lights and retreated to the back of the house. Yani was conveniently hiding in the kitchen, feeling a tad scared, understandably. She asked me about the conversation and what the lady wanted. I told her that maybe the lights in the living room at that time of the night that invited her to come to the house. We are both night owls – I usually stay in my study and work on my thesis until the early hours of the morning and Yani often works in the living room on her laptop. I told her that she could work in the dining room if she wanted and turn off the lights in the living room, so as not to attract any attention. She was too spooked so she said no.
After the fear had eased, the interaction got me thinking. It’s just three weeks after Christmas – what if I was the innkeeper when Mary and Joseph came around. In the late hours, if somebody who I don’t know from a bar of soap, come in and ask for help – or even, a place to stay for the night – would I agree to help them? Maybe these two strange looking people are crooks? What if the lady’s not really pregnant? What if they are wanted by the authorities? Mary and Joseph travelled from another town back to Bethlehem, so nobody who could vouch for their good character was around. Sometimes we are quick to judge the innkeepers for their lack of compassion and love, but had we been in their shoes, would we have acted differently? Probably not.
Regarding my experience with the lady last night, the earlier conversation between her and the servo attendant gave me some information about her character. I was afraid that I would be sprung by a waiting accomplice the moment I opened the door – who knows. However, what if she was truly in need? I wanted to ask her whether she wanted me to call the Salvo or any shelters in the city that could put her up for the night, but in that moment, it was hard to behave in a logical and calculated manner. I would love to help but I don’t want to be taken for a ride or worse, abused for my willingness to help. Matthew 10:16 tells us to be shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves, in this crazy and evil world. However, many people hide behind this verse so they don’t end up helping anybody, for fear that other people would be taking advantage of their generosity.
Last night’s bizarre experience is teaching me again that we should not be quick to judge – we may be doing the same thing in their position. I just hope that when the moment that somebody in need comes to the front porch, I would be compassionate enough to help and not turn them away …