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The Stranger

Sometimes all you gotta do is have faith!

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The Stranger
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I have had my share of weird encounters but this is one of the most recent ones. A couple weeks ago, a little past 1 am, I was walking back to my house on campus. I heard somebody say, “Ma’am” and I turned around. I couldn’t see anybody so I kept walking. Then I saw a man waving his hands at me.

He said, “I cannot come on the property because I don’t go to the college but..”, cars started passing by in this usually mute town in Ohio, “I would..”, more cars passed, “Let this last one go”. I waited patiently for the last car to pass by, so I could hear what the man had to say. I could see him only vaguely because it was quite late and there weren’t enough lights around but he seemed like a nice man since he didn’t cross the boundary and enter the premises of my house.

He said, “I need your help….” And that was all I could hear. In a split second, I saw him jumping up the curb and entering the grasses and walking towards me. I’ll be honest my heart skipped a beat. And, well not in the middle school, I saw a man and my heart skipped a beat way!

This was a black man, wearing old clothes, not looking like he was in very good shape. I have no reason to mention his race but that the society is so prejudiced and people are obviously already forming opinions in their head, probably wondering what sob story I have to express.

Anyway, I’m just going to continue regardless of the prejudice you have proudly formed in your heads. I stood there as he approached me and said, “Ma’am I don’t mean to scare you. “ He said that and almost gave me a moment to recollect my posture and myself. I did. He said, “I couldn’t hear you from there. But my lady gets off work in 15 and we were promised a place to stay and this man gave me a card but it has no money on it and I need $74 just for tonight then we get a house and I am a little short and I have only $53 and I…” He rambled on without pausing to breathe and so it didn’t seem fair to include full stops or what Americans strangely call periods. He said, “So, I need $21” and I said it almost at the same time in my head. In retrospect, as a Math major, I am proud of that fast calculation I did in my head as he babbled.

My first reaction was, “Sir, I do not have any cash on me. I was just going back to my room. I wish I did but I don’t have any money.”

I was thinking how long it would take to run to the ATM on campus, well, it was probably shut since the building it is in was closed and would that be worth the effort? What if while I was on my way, he killed me? Would I get out of that alive? What if he stole my phone and ran away with it? How would I call security?” Now, I rambled.

Well, in my head. I didn’t need a stranger to know I was preparing for my funeral.

I’ll be honest; it seemed like a con job. Plus, I had just finished watching season 1 of Quantico a few hours before this happened (Shelby and con jobs anybody?). And, I have been schemed before so I won’t lie and say it felt comfortable but for some reason I wanted to believe the man. So, I did. I went with my instinct and asked him to wait as he continued to say, “It would be so very kind of you if you could help me. My girl gets off in 10 and I just need the money for tonight. God will bless you”.

Oh, the God line! Heard it over and over again in India and then in the US. One would imagine it to be a universal concept connecting humans, wouldn’t one? And yet how wrong would one be!

Moving on, my brain had quickly thought of a plan.

And that’s why I asked him to wait as I went inside my house. Another house mate passed me and she looked at me as if asking solely with her eyes if I needed help to get rid off this man and almost seeming skeptical about my association with him. I didn’t pay much heed. I said to him, “Can you give me five minutes. I just want to go and keep my bag upstairs?”

I remembered my host family had generously given me a Walmart gift card with money on it that I could use to buy gifts for my 21st birthday!

I knew had spent most of the money on it but I also knew I had some left.

So, I hurriedly went online and checked how much money I had left in it. Believe it or not, it had exactly $21!

When I went downstairs to give it to him, he was back on the pavement, (not on the premise) waiting for me patiently. As my wandering eyes looked for him, he screamed, “Ma’am”.

Why did the card have that exact amount left? Why had the website to check the balance not opened the last two times I tried logging in? Had it shown me the balance, I’d have spent it on something else but I waited. And now I’m not going to get to buy whatever it was that I was planning on buying but somebody got a place to stay the night.

He had faith that somebody would help him. He had faith in me. I had faith in him.

I think it is really important that in the midst of the discussions surrounding the bomb attacks in New York and New Jersey, as India and Pakistan quarrel about going into war, and as we heal from the violent acts of the summer, we remember that faith is an important thing.

It doesn’t matter if you believe in God or not, it doesn’t matter if you believe in anything really, until you believe in yourself. He had faith in himself and so he stood there and waited for someone to help him. I had faith in my instincts.

Of course one needs to be completely aware of when and where they’re walking. However, sometimes, your instincts will tell you what to do. If it is that late though, know in the back of your head that you have a way out. I was right outside my house door the whole time and maybe that helped the situation.

If there is one thing I have learnt in the last one year, it is how much better people can make their lives just by believing in themselves and the good things and people that surround them. You can blame it on hormones, chemicals, boys, girls, situations, surroundings, spouses, economy, god, and the government even, but really there is nobody who can strengthen you more than you can strengthen yourself! Take a moment to ponder upon that.

That man, whose name I don’t know had belief. I had belief too and despite all the things that could have gone wrong in this story, really, nothing did.

I gave him the card and asked if he’d like to call his “lady” since he mentioned being out of battery. He said, “Yes”, with a sigh of utmost relief. She didn’t pick up so he left a voice message and his tone changed completely. I guessed they’d been married/together for quite some time from that little message that said, “Hey, I called you. So don’t tell me later I didn’t. Anyway, I got the money and I’m on my way now.” I smiled as he had a little banter with his “lady’s” voicemail box. He thanked me a million times and said, “Thank you sweetheart. God bless you” and left with a wide smile on his face.

I turned around and went back to my room with an equally wide smile. I was still a little shaken because who knows what could have happened or how this one encounter could have ended? But there is a strange fulfillment in helping others.

So, it was just another Monday night. Nothing life-changing happened. I don’t know what he did with the money. I don’t know how he spent the night or the last couple weeks. I don’t know where he is and whether he has a home to stay in. But, I came across this unfamiliar, middle-aged man and he gave me a story to tell you all. Hopefully, a good one. But, more importantly, I hope I gave him a better one.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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