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I am the Barney Fife of Neighborhood Watch captains. Last week I shattered every safety rule. Well, two of them anyway, all the while telling myself this was the right thing to do. Now I know the most natural thing in the world is to make excuses that compromise your safety. What is unnatural is suspicion when people are doing every day things. What is unnatural is imagining an attacker is going to jump from a bush or hide in your car or worm his way into your home. You don’t really believe that can happen to you, do you? So you listen to your better angels. I can only hope those better angels are protecting you if you ever compromise your safety rules. Mine were.

I won’t go into details, but unknowingly I locked myself in the house for two hours the other night with a registered sex offender. I had an overpowering reason in my mind. Only after he left did I decide to run a Google check. He behaved as a gentleman and everything ended well, but I am totally disappointed in myself for being so stupid.

While still wearing a hair shirt for my deed, I did it again the following day. Again it was dark, and I questioned the unseen man knocking on the door. My rule is to ask a stranger to step to the kitchen window so I can see him, but he sounded as if he were straining with the heavy box he said had been delivered to his house by mistake, so I opened the door. In my defense, I knew the screened door was locked and could give me time, but that’s not good enough. Now I couldn’t see my name on the box, but once this man I had never seen before told me he lived at 105 up the street, I opened the door and took the package from his hands. Pause for a moment to picture that. My door is wide open, my hands are full of a heavy box and a stranger is standing at the door. Good thing he was a neighbor.

I am exposing my stupidity in the hope that you will remember this the next time this happens to you – and it will. Don’t let your guard down; don’t be polite at the risk of your life. Do the unnatural thing: imagine the worst and don’t take any excuses from yourself.

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