A Stranger In Need


I once knew a man who had a true passion for helping people. He gave a job to anyone who wanted to work at his construction business. While he was demanding as a boss and very strict as a father, he did have a fun side to him. His house in the summertime was a blast—it’s where all the kids in the neighborhood gathered to sit and relax on his front porch, eat free snacks, enjoy fresh watermelon, and listen to good music.

Sharing Warmth

Early one morning, I was sitting at this man’s kitchen table, and his wife was cooking breakfast. It smelled so good! I was hungry and couldn’t wait to eat. I remember this well because it was very cold outside and snowing hard. I was glad to be in a warm place.

All of a sudden, the front door of the house opened, and I could see this man coming through the door covered in snow, and there was a little girl almost my age with him. I had never seen this girl before. She was shivering from the cold—and probably from fear too. Her coat was very short with no buttons, and she did not have a hat or gloves. I looked at her feet and saw she was only wearing regular shoes and socks, no boots.

The man said something to his wife about buttons, socks, boots, gloves, a hat, and food.  I was mesmerized by this little shivering girl. I bet she's hungry like me, I thought. But I was also trying to figure out where she came from, where she was going, and why the man would bring her in his house.

A New Smile

Before long, the little girl was slowly taking off her wet shoes, socks and coat. She didn't say a word. She was instructed to place her socks and shoes over the warm heat coming from the floor vent and was handed a clean pair of socks. The man's wife told the little girl to come to the table and have something warm to eat. I was served too: pancakes, sausage, grits, syrup, and orange juice. It was so good.

When we were finished with our breakfast, I turned to see this man’s wife sewing buttons on the little girl’s coat. The buttons were not all the same, but they looked pretty on her coat. I don't know how much time had passed from the time she arrived—perhaps an hour or two.

Soon, the little girl was given back her coat. She smiled. She had a new pair of socks that came up to her knees, a pair of boots that looked something like a pair I once had, a pair of gloves, a hat and a scarf. This was a new kid. She seemed happy. She wasn't cold or frightened anymore.

That man asked the little girl something I couldn't hear. They went to the door and left. I pressed my nose against the glass of the window—it was very cold, but I didn't care. I wanted to know where they were going. I could see them walking hand in hand through the snow across the street to the local school. I never knew her name. Not sure if he did either.

Always Helping

This was not a dream, not a fairytale; this was my dad. Even in his imperfections, he was a doer, a giver.  He has passed on this legacy to me and my ten siblings. He was always helping somebody. I wish he could still be here to help me navigate this lovely yet awful world right now.

Just as his acts of kindness were random at times, so are my emotions when I think about him. Missing him more and more each day. 

ARRIVAL: November 1927

DEPARTURE: June 1986

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