Wednesday, February 22, 2012

vulnerable on the city sidewalks

Back in December I was walking downtown, from the bus to the train, headed back to my neighborhood. It was quiet, everything closes at the latest 5; the commuters pack up and leave the high rises and head to the north and south sides. This makes for silent streets, that feel so lonely amidst the looming buildings and empty shops. Quickly I walked to my destination, only a few blocks away - my eyes straying upwards and around. All of the sudden a man ran behind me and I gasped in fear, shocked and afraid for only a moment, which is all it takes for our hearts to start racing and our mouths to go dry. He noticed and before running ahead, apologized for scaring me and continued on. I felt silly, but even worse, I felt racist. Was I nervous because it surprised me, or did the fact that this man was black have an influence on me? I hoped and believed not, but I wasn't sure.

Just yesterday, in the middle of the day, I was walking down my street, a mere block from my house - and again I heard running footsteps behind me and was alarmed - this time it was a small black child. What is wrong with me I thought? Am I being paranoid? Are others' thoughts on safety seeping into my head subconsciously? I feel completely safe on Argyle street, it is really not a dangerous place to be. I'm not afraid of children, and really, I am not afraid of any race of people. Dear God I hope I'm not.

Tonight, as I walked the two blocks home from the train with several other passengers traveling to their homes in the neighborhood, I was almost to my house as I approached a small black man, I had pulled my keys out of my pocket and they jingled - he gasped and exclaimed "you scared me!" Smiling I apologized profusely and told him how I hated when that happened to me, and that it had just happened with a little boy the day before. I was thrilled at this occurrence, I think you can see why.

From behind us, we can't see race, color, age or anything else. Our instincts are reactionally defensive, I think we're made that way for our safety. Just like a porcupine or iguana. We might not have needles that poke out or camouflage to help us blend in, but we do have the instinct in us of footsteps approaching quickly, cars slowing down, and other things - to protect ourselves, to be aware of our surroundings. I wonder if movies have heightened our awareness to these dangers? Living in the city is certainly different than the suburbs. In our cars we're all separate and safe, unless we run into each other in those.

On the city sidewalks we're all vulnerable. Vulnerable to the wills of other humans, to the weather, to the judgment of people. No matter where you are or who you are. Although I'm not claiming to have it all figured out, or that I don't have any preconceived judgments about people, or that I'm always the safest person in the city... I do think we're all in this together. We're all human, and we're all scared, and deep down, we all do want to trust each other.

I'm somewhere between an optimist and a realist. Definitely an idealist. Always a misfit.

PS This blog was written a week ago. I'm in Portland, it's beautiful.


Anonymous said...

Praying for a full to the brim cup of God's love for you in Portland and when you are walking in Chicago.
love and prayers,
nana & grampa

Life with Kaishon said...

Awesome perspective.

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