Original Entry Date: June 3, 2017
Written by: Jonathan Stufft
Back in December, I had taken my friend Gail out on her first trip to deliver produce. As you may recall, we had encountered a home with signs posted out front – No Solicitors, No Trespassing, Beware of Dog – along with a board spanning the opening of the front porch.
As you may also recall, I rather boldly stepped right over the board and knocked on the door. While we didn’t give away any produce, we had made a safe connection with a community member, and at the very least, opened the door to a possible future relationship.
This month, I was the last person left, with a few boxes of English muffins and some bags of peaches, so I set out to find some old friends. My delivery route would begin on one of my favorite roads where I knew I would see several friends that I knew couldn’t make it out to pick up produce each month.
As planned, I met up with several old friends and was able to give them a small amount of food to help. What I wasn’t expecting, or rather, remembering, was that this was the same road I had driven down with Gail back in December.
As I walked from one house to the next, I stole a glance at the familiar porch of the house with the unwelcoming signs and the barricade, only to see an older gentleman I didn’t recognize sitting on the porch.
“Hello! I came by a few months ago giving away food. Do you remember me? I think I must have talked to your son. Is he still here?” I greeted.
"Hey! Come out here!” he yelled through the window. “Yeah, that’s my son. He’s inside. Hang on.”
“I’m with Matthew 25 Outreach Center,” I explained, “and we do a produce distribution the first Saturday of each month over at the high school. If we can, we try to make deliveries when we have enough food.” And just like that, I was “in” with the father.
His son appeared on the porch and immediately recognized me. I told him that I had English muffins and peaches left. He indifferently nodded to the English muffins, but sneered when I said the word peach, so I told him I would bring up some muffins. We exchanged a few words of small talk, and then I spotted a woman coming up the road with 6 kids walking by her side, so I cut the conversation a little short as I offered food to her.
After setting up each of the kids with a bag of English muffins and a bag of peaches, I heard a gruff call from the porch of the “Beware of Dog” house, “Hey! Hey! Where’s my peaches?!”
“Oh, I thought you didn’t want any” I responded.
“Yeah I want them! Get me some peaches!”
“No problem,” I chuckled, “I’ll bring them right up!”
I was struck by his command for the peaches. His son obviously didn’t want them, but he, on the other hand, did. I explained that the look on his son’s face when I offered peaches had made it pretty clear that he didn’t want any, but I hadn’t really clarified with him. His gruff tone turned soft, and we all shared a little laugh at the confusion.
Before I walked away, I mentioned how Gail had thought I was a little crazy to go to their door back in December. I pointed out the numerous signs and the board that I had again crossed today. I shared her fear, as well as my blind trust in the need to share food. We talked for quite a while, and it turns out that these two men weren’t the scary hermits that their front porch led us to believe, but rather they had been in a tough situation where one of their dogs had hurt someone who came into their house and the city had made them put the dog down. They were simply trying to be clear about the presence of the dog so that nothing like that happened again.
“Beware of Dog” was their way of warning others so no one would be hurt. As I walked away from that porch for the second time, I received waves and smiles. We had forged a friendship. Sometimes all it takes is a little conversation and you learn something new about people. You learn their stories. You become aware that God is in all people – regardless of what signs are thrown up on the outside to protect them.
I just smiled to myself as I got in my truck. My energy after hours of giving out food was at an all-time high, and I couldn’t wait for the next stop. I couldn’t wait for the next conversation. I couldn’t wait for the next relationship to grow.
I smiled again to myself as I thought the sign that read “Beware of Dog” should be changed to “Beware of God.” He was truly present that day.