Something happened recently, and I still can’t get my head around it.

I was going outside for an evening walk. As I entered my front yard, I looked up and spotted a young, rail thin African American man standing about 20 feet away from me in my driveway. He was holding a small box of items. He said something to me but his voice was so small that I couldn’t understand him.

I think he was selling something, but I was so startled that I stammered out, “No, thank you.” He answered something like, “Have a blessed day,” and continued down the street.

He seemed terrified to me.

I’m a 69-year-old diabetic, so I’ve been seriously isolating since mid-March because of COVID-19. I live in a middle class neighborhood that is, for the most part, filled with white neighbors. I don’t know if I was more startled to see a stranger in my driveway or if I was startled by the color of his skin.

Actually, I think I probably do know.

We are in serious times. Some days I have so many questions and so few really good answers.

I’ve never felt particularly connected to the American Civil War or to issues of slavery. My family didn’t arrive in the United States until the 1870s. That’s when the potatoes were rotting in Ireland.

We settled into American life, working in the coal mines of eastern Pennsylvania and in the paper mills in northern Wisconsin.

Those were the jobs held by the first and second generations of my family. The third, fourth and fifth generations became scientists and nurses, teachers and writers and poets. We felt entitled to our middle class lives because our grandfathers and great-grandfathers had paid our dues toiling in the mills and in the mines.

By the time I was ready to go to high school, my dad could afford to send me to an academy that was run by the Benedictine Sisters. My best friend was Laura Ann, an African-American who had the best sense of humor I had ever encountered. I have pretty good taste in friends because, by our senior year, she was the most popular girl in our class.

I think I coasted on that relationship for years: I’m not a bigot. I’m not biased. Laura Ann was my best friend, and she is black.

And so I drifted into a white, middle class life. I married, had children, had a career.

And then 2020 happened. And a young man stood in front of me.

Now is not the time for platitudes. It’s time for prayers.