The Open Door
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Was it really 52 years ago now? My O' my! It seems like only yesterday that I remember every evening sitting on Grandma's porch watching cars on the road go by. After supper, which many times was bologna sandwiches and sometimes soup I would follow Grandma out to the screened in front porch and we would rock in the rocking chairs. Sometimes we would quietly break out in song, "Amazing grace...how sweet the sound....that saved a wretch like me" or maybe "The old rugged cross." There would always come a blessed assurance and peace just sitting there rocking and singing.
We grew up in the poorest part of our town but in those days we never bothered locking our doors. Grandma always said, "Ain't nuthin to worry bout son, ain't nobody gonna rob from folks like us, you cain't get blood from a turnip!" I'd laugh at her dry witicisms.
Grandma wasn't the kind to smile a lot. Lord knows she had seen more than her share of hard times and trouble, but she did have those "Jesus eyes" that were full of grace and mercy. The kind of lady that would give you the shirt off her back if she thought you needed it. She was also a strict woman and "whoop the devil out of ya too." Grandma stood 5' nothing and was heavy but everybody knew it was a bad mistake to question her authority. One thing she never put up with is someone "sassing her."
Sometimes as we were rocking and singing, transient people, drunks, and prostitutes would pass by, stop, sit on our stoop and talk for awhile. The greetings were always "howdy do ma'am" and "it's a fine night isn't it?" Grandma would stand and look through the porch screen and always ask them if they were thirsty or wanted a bologna sandwich. Sometimes they would say "yes ma'am I surely would" and sometimes they would just shake their heads "no thanks ma'am" and keep on going. It seems she commanded respect from even strangers. Those were the days of respect!
It was a wonderful time in our country when you could sleep on the porch on a rollaway bed and not worry whether someone was going to break in and harm you or not. It was a time of open doors and hospitality no matter what side of the tracks you lived on. Those days are gone now but O' how I wish my children could have known those times. Even though times were tough, we were always taught character, cleanliness, and honor.
There came a special night when a raggedy young vagrant man sat on the stoop out front, and as usual Grandma offered her sandwich and drink. The man rose, turn with a capturing smile and said, "Yes maam I would love a sandwich."
Grandma told me to let him in but hold him at the entrance of the front door till she made him something to eat and drink. I was 8yrs old and must've weighed no more than 60lbs but when Grandma spoke you did like she said. I can still feel how awkward I felt sticking my palm out holding that man at the entrance of our living room. He stood 6'2 and was husky built. I felt like David vs Goliath.
The man's demeanor was gentle and kind and his look was peaceful and loving. He even rubbed the top of my head, ruffling my hair as if to say, "Now that's a good boy."
I heard Grandma calling me from the kitchen to ask the man if he preferred mayonaisse or mustard and did he want water or a coke? I spun my face around to ask him, but he was gone! There is no way he could have escaped me hearing him leave through that creaking ole' screen door but he was gone just the same.
Vanished into thin air!
Grandma entered the living room and I told her what had happened. She closed her eyes, looked up to the ceiling as if praying, looked back at me with a fixed stare, and said something to me I will never forget. "Son, never forget to help a stranger for you may be entertaining angels unaware!"
Well, that was 52yrs ago and I lock my doors now. Oh yes, I still help strangers, but I do so long for those days again when people were less affraid, never locked their doors and fed angels unaware.
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You must've been raised in my neighborhood. Thomas