Ready: When being a good Samaritan leads to bitter lessons learned
Something in my character compels me to reach out to folks in distress and give them a helping hand.
But my hand usually gets bitten. Or as Mark Twain once said, “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man.”
I hate to be a cynic, but he had a point. I’m a magnet for thieves, scammers, and whackos.
Last year I helped Jeremy by giving him a job and a place to live. In return, he robbed me of all my jewelry and my late husband’s tools. This year, my yardman scammed me after I hired him and recommended him to my neighbors to help his struggling landscape business. He robbed all of us.
But it’s not just the criminally-minded that I attract. Recently, I entertained a very odd person in my house for two weird and terrifying hours.
It started when I was working out in my front yard. A sudden torrential rain chased me inside, but as I’m running for the door, a woman was just walking by on the sidewalk. Through the roar of rain and wind, she hollered at me, “Ma’am can I duck into your garage?”
Since the door was up, providing a dry place to wait out the rain, I yelled back, “Sure” and ran into the house.
After 20 minutes of unrelenting rain, I began to feel sorry for her standing in my messy, cluttered garage, so I took her a towel and a chair. This kind act was a mistake. Brushing past me, she darted for my open back door. Plopped down, dripping wet, on my floor, she introduced herself and began pulling random, strange objects out of a large canvas bag. For several uncomfortable minutes, I was nervous about what items might emerge from that bag.
Finally dumping all the contents out on the floor in order to find something at the bottom, she presented a phone book to me as a “gift” for my “hospitality.”
Then came the ludicrous litany of the events in her life. Her parents had her in order to eat her flesh, but she escaped them, got married, had two children that her mother sacrificed to the Prince of Darkness, got divorced, and moved from place to place never understanding why people asked her to leave after a few days.
But she had an upbeat attitude about her unhappy circumstances. While quoting Bible verses and singing hymns, she shared the good aspects of her life. As the adopted, spiritual daughter of the high sheriff, she was his avenging angel. And in her capacity as an avenger, she often “took care” of bad people that the law couldn’t. She would simply put on her police uniform and get into her patrol car and go exact justice. Or she could punish the offenders using her powers of astral projection.
She was so grateful to me for giving her refuge from the storm that she offered to punish anyone who had wronged me. I was tempted to unleash her on Jeremy and the scoundrel yardman, but I resisted the urge.
If you’re thinking, “Why didn’t you call 911?” I really can’t say why I didn’t. It was racing through my mind to do exactly that. But I was also thinking, if she’s dangerous, and I call for help, she will have time to react violently before help arrives. Making a judgment call, it seemed best to listen to her, respond calmly and quietly, and wait for the rain to stop and/or someone to come home.
Finally, the rain stopped, my daughter-in-law came in, assessed the situation, put her in the car and drove her home a few streets away. She’s my hero.
After that bizarre afternoon was over, I felt I’d dodged a bullet so to speak, and God had watched over me. My charity could have led to a terrible ending.
After thinking about it a few days, I called the sheriff’s office, and two deputies arrived to hear my story. They knew the lady well from multiple experiences with her. Assuring me she was “crazy but not dangerous,” one of the deputies ended the interview with a “tsk tsk” admonishment about being a good Samaritan. In his words, “I hope you’ve learned a lesson from this.”
OK. Color me stupid for giving shelter to a rain-soaked stranger.
But isn’t it a shame that in this world today, bitter lessons too often follow random acts of kindness?
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.