On the first 80 degree day of the year, everyone in my small town pulled out their flip-flops and slid into a pair of shorts. Everyone except for young Dale.
There is nothing I dread more on a Saturday afternoon than seeing a barely nineteen-year-old strolling towards my doorstep with a clipboard. Throw in the fact that it really was the first time I’d seen the sun in months, and I actually considered sliding out the back before he had a chance to ring the bell. Instead, I opened the door and stepped onto the stoop, graciously saving him from the “vicious” dog inside while still letting him get a quick glimpse of what I might unleash at anytime.
I prepared myself for the worst. The worst being one of those obnoxious coeds that puts one foot in the door and demands you help them win their dream vacation by buying one of the “high point value magazines” on their laminated fold out. They act all bubbly and genuine until their request is denied. That’s when their heads revolve three times clockwise, their middle finger finds a choice position, and they scream obscenities as they hip-hike their way off your property.
Prepared for the worst; I met Dale instead. Dale looked like a twelve-year-old sitting in a spin-the-bottle circle for the first time. He shifted his weight from foot to foot, looked at the ground, and every word he spoke tripped over his tongue on the way out. The poor kid had been strolling the neighborhood for hours in heavy loafers, 3ply Khakis, and a black jacket.
When my eyes focused on that jacket I realized he was not selling magazines; the upper left hand corner read ADT. He slowly explained that he was just in the neighborhood offering free security systems to anyone willing to allow ADT to pitch a sign in their front lawn (as advertisement) . . . for the next three years. Between rubbing his eyes, sucking snot, coughing into his sleeve, and apologizing for all of the above; Dale tried desperately to play-up the huge deal I was about to receive.
Unfortunately Dale didn’t notice his clipboard angled my direction revealing that my “free security system” included one new smoke alarm, a deadbolt for one door, and one small buzzer for the entryway of my choosing.
Apparently He also did not realize that I am old enough to know better than to think anything in life is free.
He did seem to think I was old enough to be his mom.
After a fifteen minute pitch distracted by cold-like symptoms, Dale looked me in the eyes for the first time.
“What do I do?,” he whimpered.
I stood there frozen for a moment, not sure just what he meant. Then it hit me. He was miserable with allergies.
Dale confirmed my diagnosis seconds later.
“I’m from Utah,” he began, “I’ve never experienced anything like this . . . it’s awful.”
For another fifteen minutes, Dale and I discussed his options. I recommended a doctor, told him what to get at the drugstore in the meantime, and explained that the warming temperatures were sure to make it worse. But I didn’t have the heart to warn him about the upcoming grass harvest.
I simply took his number “in case I decided I did need that free system,” and sent him to bed.
Dale and I had a nice moment. A moment made possible when he quit trying to sell me something; and started being a young kid, far from home, who needed a mom.
In so many ways I am a snot-faced kid in need of a mom, trying to sell my security. I offer-up what I want you to know about me, what you might want to hear, what I think you will buy. When in fact my life is full of allergens — things that make me cry out “what should I do?” All my security adds up to is a smoke alarm and single dead bolt.
Maybe security is overrated. I cannot comfort, unless I am first comforted, which means I must experience DIScomfort. I cannot share joy, until I know joy, and I cannot know joy without first knowing sorrow. I cannot give wisdom without first learning, and I cannot learn without mistakes.
Insecure is not such a bad state. When I am insecure I find myself on God’s doorstep — we have a moment. And then, I have something to give the next kid who rings my bell, far from home, and with a runny nose.