Our faithful Charlie, half black lab/half dumb mutt, started barking, more assertively than he would if he just heard Katie's car. A young man walked in as Knute stood up to calm Charlie. Knute put his arm around the guy and soothingly said, "It's OK, Charlie, he's a good guy. It's OK." We were assuming that this was one of the kids' friends.
I walked in and said hi, then asked his name. I didn't recognize him, so I asked, "Do we know you?" He didn't answer, and mostly just mumbled in answer to our other questions -- was he OK, did he need something, did he know where he was, was he hungry. It was obvious that he wasn't OK, so I went in the other room and called 911 while Knute continued to talk calmly to the man and make sure Charlie didn't attack him.
The sheriff's deputies were here before I even finished talking to the dispatcher, and a medical team arrived soon after. Only as they were arriving did I realize that this could have been a dangerous situation. The dispatcher asked me if he was armed, if my husband was armed, did we suspect the stranger was violent. The deputies patted him down, told us he was just drunk, and took him to a holding cell to sleep it off. They put hand cuffs on him, which further reminded me that we were lucky.
As they left we locked the door. OK, I guess we should keep the front door locked all the time, but we've never had any problem leaving it open. Besides that, I wouldn't have done anything differently. We treated him like a human. We offered help. We called help. Knute talked respectfully and calmly to him, found out his name and that he did live somewhere, and learned that he had a head injury.
I'm proud that my family didn't judge this man, but that everyone was helpful, respectful, and kind. So what if he had had a gun? So what if he had hoped to rob us? He's still a human, and we didn't make assumptions or profile him. He was a little offended by the handcuffs, but I can see how the police needed that safety measure, and they were gentle.
I believe that respect and care are effective defenses against violence. There are no guarantees, of course, but when people are greeted, listened to, offered assistance, welcomed, they are more likely to respond decently than to act violently. I know I meet ex-convicts on the street every time I'm down by the south waterfront, but I smile at everybody, and most smile back. No one has ever tried to hurt me. If they did, would rude or defensive behavior prevent anything? I think it's more likely to provoke a negative response.
OK, I'll lock the door more often, but we will always offer help, not fear or defensiveness, to any stranger we encounter. It's simply the right thing to do.