I used this quote from McIntyre to introduce the fifth assignment, “I’ve been amazed on this trip by the stubborn capacity of Americans to help a stranger, even when it seems to run contrary to their own best interests. I think of all the families who take me in. I arrive with nothing but my pack, while they expose their homes, their possessions, their children. As scared as I am to trust them, they must be doubly afraid to trust me. Then again, what might truly frighten them is the idea of not trusting anybody.”
“I think that Mike wrote his truest words here. When we think about what frightens us the most about strangers it is usually the possibility the stranger may be that one in a million crazy that has been put on the earth to do us or our loved ones in. Then we remember that we can actually make a difference, that, as humans, we lose a bit of our humanity by not trusting or helping another who needs it.
“Sometimes we get people stopping by the Meeting House who claim to need help of one type or another. On one occasion we had a man stop by, a stranger, who explained that he needed money and was thinking of stealing from a shop in order to get the money when he passed by the Meeting House and remembered his parents had been Quakers. He said we were his last hope and could we please help him.
“He looked quite distraught and nervous and agitated. I guess this was the crunch point. Who is this man? What does he really want? Is he some sort of con? Is he going to try and rob us? What about the kids?
“We asked him why he needed money so badly. He said he was trying to get to Cambridge and couldn’t afford the bus fare and a bus was leaving later that afternoon. The reason he had to get to Cambridge was to be with his estranged wife because he had just received word that their 6 year old son had just died from meningitis. We gave him the money.
“We still weren’t positive that the story was true but we had the sense that it was. We felt it would have been far worse for the story to be true and we had done nothing than if the story was false and we had been duped. An hour later we went down to the main road and took care of some shopping and saw the man coming out from the travel shop where he had booked his ticket, and as he was running for the coach he noticed us and with a sad smile gave us a wave and then got on the coach to Cambridge.”