When my husband brought this Yankee wife "down home," I had real trouble with certain Southern concepts. Like, why do southerners fry everything? Can't you just bake the chicken?? And exactly how do you fry the blessed thing without burning the outside? But I really had a problem with letting strangers into our home. After all, I am a New Yorker, and in New York, you don't let anyone in without a full FBI background check.
One night at about 11:00 pm, a knock came at our door. Who on earth could be calling at this time of night? Being a newly transplanted Yankee, I hid behind the door with my handy-dandy two-quart cast iron chicken fryer (much to Scott's dismay) as he opened the door to find two young men on our doorstep.
They introduced themselves as Steve and David and asked if they could please use our telephone. From my hiding spot behind Scott, I passed the cordless out to them, making it pretty clear that they were to stay outside on the porch (and away from our sleeping children) where strangers belong. "I'm really sorry," Steve apologized, "But it's long distance, and I don't have any money to give you. The thing is, I need to call my dad." Scott dismissed their concerns and told them to call whoever and wherever they needed.
The boy's story unfolded: Some months previously, David was living at home in Florida when his father, upset with him for rebellious behavior, had really let into him. Angry with his dad, David had run away to Philadelphia where life since had treated him pretty poorly. His rebellious spirit broken, David realized that his father was right all along, and that he needed to go home. He needed to make things right. He needed his father.
A few months later, he met up with Steve who immediately agreed to drive David home to Florida in his family's vehicle. The problem was that Steve's family only had one vehicle, and that Steve was barely seventeen. There was no way his father was going to agree to let him drive this stranger to Florida. So he left a note and took the car. And then they had run out of food. And then they had run out of money. And then they had run out of gas.
And now they were on our doorstep.
Steve dialed his home, and we could hear his father's voice booming over the phone. "Yes sir, I'm fine. No, sir, this isn't a pleasure cruise. Dad, you don't understand. Yes, sir, I know he is a stranger. No, sir, I haven't lost my mind. Will you please . . . Please dad, listen to me. No sir, I'm not trying to argue, but I want you to think about something. Please, just listen . . . what if it were me?"
There was dead silence on the other end of the line. Scott opened the door a little further for the boys to come in, and I took my cast iron fryer back to the kitchen, busying myself burning chicken and packing up canned drinks in sack lunches - those words ringing in my ears as I thought of my own children.
"What if it were me?"
What if it were my children who were hungry, tired and broke. What if they were desperate enough to knock on a stranger's door? Would they call me?
Could they call me?
I returned with a box full of food for the boys, who were now sitting in the living room with Scott, discussing the best route to Mobile. Steve's father was wiring money to the nearest Western Union as we spoke. Scott had already filled their car with the gasoline we keep in the gas can for emergencies, and though I don't know for certain, I believe he folded a few pieces of paper into the boy's pockets.
Scott stayed on the porch as the boys drove away, while I shuffled into the girl’s room. He found me there, gently brushing the hair off from their sleeping faces, praying for God to keep my babies safe.
The Bible tells us not to be forgetful to entertain strangers, and I can't say for certain, but I wouldn't be surprised if one day I find those two boys were the "angels unawares" that the word speaks of, and I thank them both, where ever they are now, for having taught me the value of an open door.
As for the cast iron fryer - it stays in the kitchen now, the only threat it represents is the certain ruination of an otherwise perfectly good, if unsuspecting chicken.
copyright 2004 doriknight
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