“A man just asked to borrow my big drill to fix his car down the street,” says my husband Luke as he passes through the dining room headed back out toward the workshop. “He said he had all the bits, just needed something to drive them. I’m trying to practice trust by lending my stuff out…He’ll bring it back.”
“Ok,” I say warily. “But don’t be mad if it doesn’t return. Don’t let that keep you from letting people borrow again,” I call after him in skeptical caution, not wanting his experiment to add to any bitterness that may already be in us. We’ve had bikes stolen right off of our back porch, computers stolen out of our home office, and—just this week—a cell phone stolen from a neighbor. It is common knowledge in our part of Highland: if you leave it outside, it’s fair game. My heart wants us to be eager to give to anyone who asks without assuming it won’t return and/or without needing it to so badly. I just know that we won’t see that drill again.
“Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” -Luke 6:30
Four hours later, I’m rocking our new baby on the front porch where the balmy Louisiana weather keeps him cooing and keeps me sweating. I watch as Luke stretches his head around the corner of the house, walks down the driveway and squints in investigation. “I wonder if that guy is coming back,” he says. I silently grieve for the next person who will ask to borrow something from us.
But then there he is, drill in hand, strolling up the sidewalk. Luke is beaming, “Did you get it working, man?”
“Nah,” he says, “I bought the wrong thing with the last of my check, so I’ll have to wait.” The men talk shop for a few seconds and the visitor leaves on the note, “Thanks for trusting me.”
But it was not only our trust that made this moment possible. It was the willingness of both the approaching and the approached to be vulnerable and take a risk on someone who is different from them–and maybe not that different from them.
With all that is going on in our world right now, with all of the unveiled and called out racism still puppet-stringing the hearts of so many Americans, this middle aged, black stranger was most certainly taking a gamble by walking up our driveway. I say this because I know of at least three or four other houses in the area that he could have visited where his presence and inquiry would have received a more disturbing welcome. Houses where he and “his kind” have been unjustly referred to as animals only seeking to “be enabled by acts of charity” such as drill-loaning. Houses standing tall on the cinder blocks of the divided South whose conversations still include questions like, “What color was he?” when someone is telling a story. Houses that would just as soon call the cops after seeing a “suspicious man” of color “lurking” around the property in the middle of the day.
He had little reason to trust that we would not be that sort of home. And yet, he did—at least, enough to come close.
I think about this as I watch the exchange happen in the front yard. I think about how I have never considered the privilege I have of being able to approach most any house and being frequently trusted because of my skin and my clothes. I think about the risk that the stranger took today in offering us trust, and the risk that Luke took today in offering it right back. And how both people chanced potential loss and/or hatred; and in turn, a small act of reconciliation happened.
A miracle has taken place at the end of our driveway, and I note that my hope for the world has grown slightly. Because two men who do not have history in the corner of their potential friendship, have taken a gamble on each other. They have reconciled a bit of the past by making space for good to be possible.
As a white, middle class woman who has had to repent of her own past contributions (subtle or blatant) to the disease of racism, the gap in our country’s socioeconomics, and the othering of those who choose differently than I do—I have often found myself wondering how to speak, what to say, when to stay quiet. I have questioned whether my apology, advocacy, or silence is most needed or wanted in repairing our nation’s wounds.
But in this moment, hospitality to the stranger has answered that question, at least for today. And I am filled with gratitude; and my response is to say thank you.
To the stranger who has asked something of me, offered something to me, stopped me on the street corner, flagged down our car, opened your doors, requested help or offered it willingly, come into our home, invited us into yours, let me work and march alongside of you—
Thank you for trusting, for taking a gamble, and for risking hate, humiliation, or degradation because you thought it might be ok, worth it, or necessary. Thank you for coming close.
I am better for it. And we are getting saved by it.