Home alone late at night, the doorbell rings. Outside is a strange man in dark clothing.

It’s a scenario no one wants to experience, yet it happened to me a few months ago. And, as all military spouses know, such situations — like every major appliance in the house breaking at once — never seem to occur until your significant other is away.

However, my fear could have been lessened by one simple act: talking to my neighbors.

But first, back to that night: Unaware he was being watched, the man began to walk away. Suddenly panicked that he might think my house was a prime target, I flipped on more lights, but this had the opposite effect — he turned and doubled back. Frozen, I debated what to do. In the end, I spoke to him through the door. Should I not have answered the door at all? Maybe. But some part of me needed to hold my own rather than cowering in a corner, wondering if he would be back.

The stranger claimed to live down the street and said he needed money. Note: There was no explanation as to why he needed money, or even a “Hey! So great we are finally getting a chance to meet ... at this bizarre hour.” He was also uncommonly sweaty for such a cold night.

I told him to take a hike and called the police, immediately. Then I checked every door and window 15 times and proceeded to sleep with one eye open for a week.

Am I overly paranoid? Yep. And protective. When ‘Mama Bear’ has a cub in tow, you best not be comin’ around again — or honey, you’re liable to see some claws. Having lived in a city for several years, I also know better (case in point: one neighbor gave him a few bucks, upon which he demanded more).

In a nutshell, I could have saved myself some angst if I had just talked to my neighbors right away to see if they had been visited by the same character. The problem was, I had never really spoken to them. When we first moved into our neighborhood last spring, only one neighbor even bothered to welcome us. Having grown up in a small town, this struck me as rude, but I didn’t feel that it was right for us to have to introduce ourselves first. As time went on, I met a couple of the folks around us, but not many. The explanation for this was fairly simple — a few families were new to the area as well, while others just kept to themselves.

Although I’ve met most of the folks around us now, I feel there’s an important lesson to be learned: Not only is it wise to know your neighbors so you can watch out for each other, but it eases a burden when you can all compare notes. Even if we still don’t know what that man was up to.

Maybe I’ll even put away my 2x4. Eventually.

Abbey Sinclair is a Herald correspondent and a military spouse.

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