Last winter, in July, a rather odd thing happened. It was a Saturday night, just as we were getting the kids into bed. There was a knock at the door, and when I opened it there stood a young man and woman, wearing backpacks. The man asked, in a lovely French accent, whether they might pitch their tent in our front yard. It was such a strange request, and so removed from anything I might have expected to hear that I didn’t understand the question. It was English, but somehow foreign. I actually asked him to repeat it. I called my husband to the front door. The beautifully spoken request was made for the third time. My husband invited them in. They took off their backpacks; sat at the dining table. Our children were disturbed, upset even, at the notion that these strangers might stay in the house, but they eventually calmed down and went to sleep. We sat and talked to the couple and gave them dinner – betcha it was the first time the Frenchman and his Korean girlfriend had eaten spaghetti Bolognese made with kosher mincemeat.
It was getting late, and it was cold outside. After sharing a meal with them, I couldn’t bring myself to ask them to remove themselves from my house and to sleep outside in their tent. I offered them the living room floor. We took a photocopy of their passports. We figured that at least that way, if we were murdered in our sleep, the police would have a lead. Their story was that they had arrived in Australia a few days before and were supposed to have couch-surfed at the home of someone who knew someone they knew, but the deal turned sour. They had pitched their tent in a park. We live close to a supermarket, so that Saturday night, after shopping, they wandered down the street and knocked on a few doors. We were the first who let them in.
They slept on our living room floor on Saturday night, and then on Sunday night. Our children stopped being wary or afraid and just accepted that this couple ate breakfast and dinner with us, went out during the day and slept on our floor at night. On Monday they enquired at the bank, post office and government agencies whether their working visas, bank accounts and other official paperwork were in order to enable them to start their trek up the east coast and pick up work on the way. They weren’t
They slept on our floor on Monday night.
My husband told me that he knew that I was uncomfortable but that he was proud of me and that it showed character growth. On Tuesday morning I told him I had grown enough and that they could leave. Luckily, their paperwork had all come through. But, like finding a stray kitten, feeding it and then having to surrender it to the RSPCA, I felt guilty. I bought them a packet of Tim-Tams and offered to drive them into the city.
We checked out their blog a few times in the next few months, and followed their progress up the coast to Queensland. They were just a young couple with limited funds doing their best to travel the world living lightly and asking kindness of strangers. In a few years my kids will likely be travelling the world. I hope someone opens the door to them.