Andrew Dys

Woman shown the kindness of strangers

Sobbing Saturday as darkness fell like doom over strands of graying hair, the fallen lady who had lived on Ascot Ridge in Rock Hill all of a few hours covered her bleeding scratches.

Her great-grandmother's antique china closet was already broken. The rest of her life not already shattered by two disabling back surgeries her lay scattered in boxes in her new yard.

The movers had left it all in the yard.

She had nobody.

Barbara Barry looked up. She did not see God. She did find an angel. Wearing sneakers. Sweating. Gray hair.

He rode a bicycle. His name was David McAteer.

McAteer got off his bicycle and asked the stranger, "Do you have anybody to help you?"

Barry said no.

McAteer, the Sunday school teacher, didn't ride off. He started carrying boxes into Barry's rented house.

Barry begged McAteer to stop helping.

"This stranger just kept carrying," Barry said. "He said he couldn't go teach Sunday school in the morning if he didn't help. All I knew is his name was David and he was carrying my stuff into the house."

Lois Morton from across the street and her daughter, Laura, went outside to walk the dog. They saw McAteer and the mess and introduced themselves to the newest neighbor.

Morton did what she's spent a lifetime doing. She carried drawers and boxes and called neighbors. Then, she got in the car and drove around to find more help. Morton told of the furniture dumped in the yard and McAteer filling the breach.

She told of a lady left helpless in the night. She spied Johnny Barnes -- yeah, of the Comporium Barneses.

"Saw Johnny in his kitchen," Morton said. "He left a steak right there on the table to come help."

Barnes got to work. Coy Coulson immediately brought his sturdy back and hand truck. Frank Robards helped. Phil Parker and his wife, Bonnie, came from down the street.

In the dark, McAteer saw Barnes walking up with a hand truck. The others looked like troops.

"I told her we can't stop now, the cavalry is here," McAteer said.

Now everybody was carrying boxes.

Except Barry.

"No one would let me do anything but watch," said Barry, a nurse until her back forced her into retirement.

The men, many of them strangers to each other before Saturday night, were carrying beds and dressers. They carried the whole life of a woman who came to Rock Hill from northern Virginia only because a longtime friend who recently moved here loved it.

"I knew my neighbors were great, but this was generosity like nothing I've ever seen," said Barry's nursing friend, Adrienne Queller, who came to Rock Hill from Florida in March.

"A lady left in the lurch like that, I did what anybody would do," Parker said.

We hope, Mr. Parker, we do.

It was almost midnight when the last piece of furniture was inside. The bed was set up so Barry had a place to sleep. Barry sidled up to McAteer.

"I had to know how could I repay all the generosity I had just received," Barry said.

"Nothing," McAteer told her. "Just pass it on if you ever can."

The new army of Ascot Ridge left in silence.

In the whirlwind, Barbara Barry couldn't remember their names. She still can't. Barry stood on the step of her home in the dark with her slobbering chocolate lab named Max. She wondered if all of Rock Hill is like these people.

No, Ms. Barry, all are not.

But your neighbors are.