Melanie and I were awoken this morning by someone knocking at our front door. We didn’t answer. Not only were we unprepared to answer the door, but Peter and Creegan were still fast asleep. In fact, the very reason we didn’t answer the door last night was because we were in the midst of trying to get these very children to sleep. You see, the same person had come knocking at our door less than 12 hours earlier. It’s the same person who calls our home phone at least five times a day, often a dozen times per day. It’s our neighbor, Jimmy.*
Jimmy moved into our apartment complex a few months ago. He’s a fairly high-functioning adult, but he’s not as independent as most people his age. He has a gold medal or two that he received at the Special Olympics, if that helps you paint your mental picture. Jimmy called us out of the blue about a month ago, having been referred to us by some local church missionaries. Because we live in the same apartment complex, Jimmy was hoping we could give him a weekly ride to our church services. I admit, I was less than thrilled by this request. Almost the same thing happened to Melanie and me in Atlanta, where we suddenly became responsible for a complete stranger’s transportation needs. That brought certain challenges to our life, but we were a much smaller family then. We handled the chauffeuring fairly well. But things are different now. Melanie and I already struggle to get our family to church on time every week. Adding another person to the mix would not be easy. But of course, we wanted to help. So we said yes.
So far, the rides haven’t been a problem. Jimmy’s only gone to church with us twice in the last four weeks. But the phone hasn’t stopped ringing. He calls incessantly. We don’t answer it. Neither Melanie nor I have the time to stop and chat with the guy. But now he’s just showing up at our door. He lives only a few apartment buildings away from us, so he can get here in two minutes. I fear we’re going to feel trapped in our own home. I don’t mind giving the guy a ride, but random appearances at our door are not my cup of tea. The last time we gave him a ride to church, he showed up at our house about 30 minutes before we were ready to leave. Instead of waiting for us to call him to say we were heading over to pick him up, which is the official plan of action, he came to us. He didn’t call first. He just appeared. We were still struggling to get kids to put on their clothes. We were on the brink of eating lunch. It was incredibly awkward and stressful. As we tried to get kids dressed and shove food down their throats, Jimmy read us all of the text messages he had sent back and forth to a friend on the previous night. Jimmy was playing a joke on the friend, telling the friend that he (Jimmy) had been arrested for stabbing a person in the heart and killing him. That is what our kids got to hear as we tried to prepare them for church.
The first time Jimmy came to church with us, he ran into someone he had gone to church with when he lived in his previous apartment. Jimmy considered the person to be an old friend and was very excited to see him. This old friend, whom I’ll call Nick, seemed a bit unsettled to see Jimmy. Nick lives very close to Melanie and me and has been a decent friend to us. He’s been in our home several times. Shortly after Jimmy knocked at our door last night, Nick coincidentally called me up to talk about Jimmy. It’s important for you, the reader, to realize that Nick is one of the nicest, most generous and thoughtful people I’ve met. And Nick was calling me to warn me about Jimmy. Pretty much everything Nick said to me was something I’d already experienced, but he assured me this was just the beginning. He even said that Jimmy was quite literally the main reason he and his wife had decided to move across town. “Moving is the only way to stop it,” he told me. Bear in mind, Nick had done his best to be kind and helpful to Jimmy for a full two years before moving. And now Jimmy happens to move just around the corner from Nick. I can tell that Nick is panicking about this, but I’m happy to let the Jimmy problem fall into my lap for now. Still, as you can understand, I’m not without anxiety over the matter.
Maybe some of you think there is an easier solution to this than I realize. Maybe you think I should just explain to Jimmy that he should call before he comes over, etc. Perhaps that’s true. I don’t know how you say something like that, and I’m not sure how it would be understood or if the request would be respected. Nick said that Jimmy would complain to certain ecclesiastical leaders if Nick ever failed to give him rides or showed up late or anything like that. Supposedly, Jimmy would tell people that Nick wouldn’t help him or wasn’t doing what he’d said he’d do, etc. Nick, whom I remind you is an incredibly upstanding guy, felt that his reputation was truly being tarnished, that certain people really did talk to him as though he weren’t being a good and helpful person and was somehow shirking his moral duties. It’s hard for me to believe anyone could view Nick that way, especially based on Jimmy’s reports alone, but there’s no denying the urgency in Nick’s voice as he tried to warn me about the hardships that Jimmy brought to Nick’s own family. Knowing Nick, maybe he tried too hard. Maybe he helped too much to begin with. I’ve been keeping things to a minimum thus far, and I don’t have plans to reach out any more than I already have. I’m trusting this is the right move, but I can already see things spiraling a bit. And yes, I’m worried.
*Jimmy’s name isn’t really Jimmy. I feel compelled to change his name for this post, though I’m not sure why.