This Will Not Appear in a History Book or on the News

by Leslye “Joy” Allen                                                                                                        Historian, Educator, Theatre and Jazz Advocate & Consultant, Doctoral Student

Copyright © 2012 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

Back during the first week of December 2011, late on a Saturday night, my doorbell rang. Since I was not expecting anyone, I was hesitant to answer the door.

“Who is it?”  I asked.

A male voice answered back, “Did you know there is somebody laying at the foot of your yard?”  I answered that I did not know, but that I would be calling the police.  I turned off my lights and peeked out the window. I did not see anything.

Then I became frightened. Was the man who rang my doorbell trying to gain entry to my home? I erred on the side of caution. I dialed 911. After I spoke with the 911 Operator, I again looked out of my bedroom window. This time I saw what initially appeared to be a large object writhing on the street right in front of my home. I felt a lump in my throat.

Soon I saw the swirling reflection of police lights against my closed blinds and curtains. I cracked my bedroom window so that I could hear what was going on outside and peeked through the curtains.

A young, Black police officer repeatedly questioned the man lying in the street.  “What is your name sir?” How did you get here?”  “Do you know where you are?”  “I need you to talk to me so that I can help you, sir.”

The man did not answer. Soon, the young officer started walking to my door.  He asked me if I had seen anything out of the ordinary. The only thing I could say was that a man rang my doorbell and told me that someone was lying in the street in front of my house.

The police officer told me the man lying in the street was incoherent, and that an ambulance would arrive soon. He thanked me for contacting the police. “That man that came to your door should have called the police rather than ring your doorbell,” he said. I agreed. I told the police officer that this kind of thing was not customary in my neighborhood.  He told me to be careful and said goodnight.  I thanked him for his courtesy.

Before I closed my door, the ambulance arrived. The police officer and the paramedics picked the man up, placed him on a stretcher, lifted him into the back of the ambulance which soon sped away. It was a strange moment for me for a variety of reasons.

I still live in a Southwest Atlanta neighborhood where most neighbors know each other, can go next door to borrow a couple of eggs, and Saturday mornings are devoted to mowing grass and raking leaves. I also recall that I had been an adult for a good long time before I saw anyone in Atlanta who appeared to be incoherent and homeless.

A few folks that I have met in recent years who migrated to Atlanta from some larger urban northern communities informed me right away that they grew up seeing homeless people. That depressed me almost as much as thinking about that poor man lying in the street.  Yet, there is another way of looking at the events of that particular night.

There was a time when those of us who are Black and who call Southwest Atlanta home were not welcomed here; a time when you were more likely to be harassed (or dealt much worse) by an Atlanta police officer. There are folks that would argue that the police still occasionally treat us that way. I will not argue that they are entirely wrong. However, I am always concerned when any of us paints one group or one profession with the same broad brush. I learned yet another important lesson.

The man who came to my door that night might have called the police himself.  Instead, he passed that obligation to me. At least he DID SOMETHING and SAID SOMETHING. He also took a risk that I, as a woman, would never have taken—He rang a total stranger’s doorbell to alert them to a problem in front of their home.  I have met folks who would have seen someone lying in the street and then driven on about their business.

I also met a young Black police officer who addressed me with courtesy and who treated an unfortunate, incoherent man with concern and respect. I watched him help the paramedics get this man into the back of ambulance.

People like this police officer, someone who was simply doing his job, are rarely, if ever, in the history books; and they do not make the evening news either. Yet, we can spread the word about the work they do.

It would not hurt if each of us occasionally acknowledged and said “Thank you” to those sisters and brothers who simply do their work and their duties with dignity and cheerfulness.

Tell your neighbors, friends, and co-workers about that nice young brother that always smiles and says “Hello” when he bags your groceries or the young Black female student who always gets up and offers her seat to an elderly person whenever an elderly person boards MARTA or the police officer who truly serves and protects.

At one time or another, all of us have spent too much time discussing the latest gossip with friends and family.  However, let us also make a point to acknowledge and celebrate the folks, our folks, who do the right thing everyday. They are out there when we bother to look; and there are plenty of them right here in Southwest Atlanta.  Peace.

Copyright © 2012 by Leslye Joy Allen. All Rights Reserved.

Leslye Joy Allen is proud to support the good work of Clean Green Nation.  Visit the website to learn more about it: Gregory at Clean Green Nation!

Creative Commons License This Blog was written by Leslye Joy Allen and is protected by U. S. Copyright Law and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.  Any partial or total reference to this blog, or any total or partial excerpt of this blog must contain a direct reference to this hyperlink: with Leslye Joy Allen clearly stated as the author.


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