As parents, Eeees and I try to impart many life lessons to our kids. One of those lessons is that there is a time when it's okay to disturb people and a time when it's wrong. For example, we stress to them that after 10PM, calling time is over. Unless you have explicit permission from the person you're calling beforehand (or barring an emergency, of course) you do not call people after 10PM. You certainly don't go knocking on their door, even if you know that they're still awake. The reason, very simply, is basic mentchlichkiet. People are entitled to their own disturbance-free private time. I know that I'm not thrilled when people call after a certain hour (most family, certain friends and emergency situations excepted) and I certainly would not do to someone that which I wouldn't want done to me. Which brings us to last night.
Due to a project that I needed to work on at school, I did not get home last night until about 10:30. As you can imagine, after a day at work, school, a train and bus ride home, I was fairly tired and ready for my "down time." We gathered the kids together and lit the menorah. By the time we were done (there were some delays, of course), it was close to 11:00.
A few minutes after we finished, George and Walter wanted to go outside to see how the four menorahs with all their lights looked from the outside. So, out they went to the side of the house (that's where the window with the menorah is) and watched for a minute or two. Afterwards, they came back into the house and told me that there was someone who wanted to see me.
I walked into our front room and there was a tzedaka collector.
I try to make it a rule that I never turn away a tzedaka collector. Yes, I'm not rich and even when I do give, it's usually not more than a few dollars, but I always try to give something. Walter, God bless him, gave me a few dollars to give to the guy. But I told him to put his money away. In this case, I was going to break my rule. Why? Because it was after 11:00 at night.
Yes, the collector probably knew we were still awake because of the freshly lit menorah in the window. Yes, he saw Walter and George leave and come back. But just because you know a person is awake at home does not make it right to knock on his door at all hours of the night. It is (and perhaps it's just my opinion) just not right.
Granted, there is always the possibility of an emergency. If someone's car crashes right outside my home at 2AM and the driver knocks on the door and needs to use the phone to call an ambulance or a tow truck, I would certainly understand. But this wasn't an emergency... it was a guy collecting for his family*. What's worse, he didn't seem to even care that he was disturbing people at 11PM at night. If (God forbid) it were me and I *had* to knock on someone's door at 11PM for some reason, the first thing out of my mouth would be "I'm so sorry to disturb you this late at night but...." Nothing of the sort came out of this fellow's mouth. He just began his shpiel without the slightest regard for the time.
Now, granted, perhaps he was not aware that I had just arrived home. He certainly could not have known that I had just endured a full day of work and school and was just ready to call it a day. And let's even give him the benefit of the doubt that he didn't realize that if I just lit the menorah it means that I had just recently arrived home. Even so, just the fact that he's knocking on the door collecting at 11PM in a non-emergency situation is just plain wrong. At 11PM, people deserve not to be bothered. By 11PM (and even earlier) people should be allowed to relax at home without being disturbed.**
So I turned him away. I did it nicely. I didn't lecture him (although I think I should have -- but I tend to be non-confrontational). I didn't berate him. I just told him no.
So, I'm curious... what do you think? Did I overreact by not giving him anything? Was I in the right? I'd like to know what you think?
* Yes, that can certainly be viewed as an emergency in desperate enough situations... but you know it's not the same thing.
** As a side point, I'm curious... was he just walking by my house, saw the menorah and my sons and decided to give it a try? Or was he actually attempting to work the block at that time?