A knock brings a new British invasion

Stranger things have happened than finding two students at my door

August 05, 2010|Susan Reimer

I have had a stranger knock on my front door asking for money for the bus so he could get to a hospital where his wife was in labor.

I have had strangers asking for my signature on a petition or for a donation to a cause. I have had politicians want to introduce themselves to me and women who want to save my soul.

I have had strangers at my door selling memberships, subscriptions and candy or looking for work or a ride.

And I have managed to say no to just about everybody.

But when a stranger recently knocked on my door and said he needed a place to live for the summer, I said, to the eye-rolling exasperation of family and friends, "Let's see what we can do."

Khalil came to the United States from the United Kingdom, where he is a college student, and I guess his accent worked its magic on someone who came of age during the British Invasion of rockers.

He had paid quite a bit of money to a book company to come to this country and go door-to-door selling supplemental texts for every grade level. And he had been promised a place to live — with a family who had sponsored workers from this company in years past.

When the family backed out — it had daughters and expected to host two girls, not two guys — Khalil and his co-worker, Andy, were in trouble. All the other salesmen had been placed with host families, but there was no room for these two.

(The company, it turns out, is legit. But the business model is poor. You won't sell many supplemental textbooks in the neighborhoods these students were assigned to canvas: too old or too poor.)

Their sales manager dropped them at a church in my neighborhood on a Sunday and told them to ask the pastor for help. Knock on doors, they were told. See what happens.

It was one of those days in June where temperatures were creeping toward 100, but after he knocked on my door, Khalil and I made the rounds of my friends in the neighborhood. Did they have room? Did they know anyone who did?

Back at my house, I made lunch and learned all about Khalil's family. His father was proud of his adventuresome spirit. His mother had cried when he left. He missed his sister; she is his best friend. And he couldn't believe his luck in landing in Annapolis. "So close to the Smithsonian!"

Just as I had predicted, a friend and neighbor, who has sponsored midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy and is used to having boys around, took in Khalil and Andy, who's from Scotland, for the summer in return for a very modest rent. Soon, a third failed salesman, Ben, also from the U.K., joined them.

They kept at selling the books for three weeks but, having sold not a one, quit and found jobs in town.

"The boys," as the neighbors now call them, have been invited to cookouts and parties and swimming at the neighborhood pool. Their hostess took them on a tour of Washington and they went to see fireworks on the Fourth of July.

When they aren't working, the boys Skype family, play video games, a little basketball and walk their hostess' dog. They are responsible for watering the plants while another neighbor is on vacation.

I know I am lucky this story has a happy ending. I read the newspaper headlines, too, and I know there is evil in the world. But sometimes you just have to go with your gut and trust in karma. With my own son half a world away and in danger every day, I could not close the door on another woman's son.

One evening, my daughter and four of her girlfriends, representing the loveliest my town has to offer, invited the boys over to my deck. They taught them how to pick crabs — they already knew how to drink beer — and the chatter lasted into the evening. The girls offered to take them on a pub crawl some night soon.

When I told my husband about the girls and the crab feast, he said, "They really will think it is America the beautiful."


Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.