I sometimes wonder when I was born if Mum walked home from the hospital, pushing me in the hand-me-down pram of my siblings. Growing up without a family car is an integral, carefree, delightful part of who I am – a walker. I walk every day, everywhere, for whatever reason. Walking as a youngster developed my sense of awareness, of observation, of learning; exploring was part of the walk; so was talking to neighbours and shop owners; friendships were formed, fun was created.
Throughout my life, my walking has led to me notice some significant changes in society and lifestyles, one in particular, that of 2 metre high fences, solid locked gates, window shutters and roller-doors pulled down. Are the home owners locking themselves in or are they keeping everyone else shut out?
Living in a duplex for a year or so, I never met my neighbour, a reality that saddened and disappointed me. On the occasions we simultaneously approached our adjoining properties, I was invisible to him. My greetings were bounced off ears that did not want to hear; my glance lost to him while he fumbled with car and gate remote controls in one hand and mobile phone in the other. He regarded my husband in the same way.
When did trust tip over to become fear?
Trust is belief that something is good, it provides protection and care, it implies safety and security. I constantly strive to believe in goodness, to believe I am safe. Fear is fueled by pain and hate, it creates panic, it is based around threat and danger; it is an unpleasant emotion and makes for weakness. When I was living and working in an unfamiliar city where crime and killings were rampant, a friend reminded me to trust, to believe I was safe, to walk the streets confidently and to blend in, to feel a connection or belonging. He introduced me to an “imaginary bubble” which I would mentally put myself inside and trust that I was safe.
We are each responsible for our own safety and being aware of danger is of paramount importance but are the high fences and the locked gates the answer? Can we stop being afraid? Can we change the way we think and stop focusing on the bad – there is so much more good in the world than bad.
Come out from behind your fence and protection and have a good look around – maybe you might discover, realise, explore, notice, learn . . . . . talk to a neighbour, a stranger, a tourist; pat a dog; smile at the sky and know you are safe.
Turn and take a step towards trust.
When living in that dangerous situation mentioned before, every Sunday night my husband and I would leave our gated, guarded, alarmed and locked community residence and drive to the main street of the town where we would park, leave the car lights on, stand beside the vehicle and wait. The dark, deserted street would be unnerving; not a sound could be heard. We would wait and wait until suddenly, dark-skinned faces of young boys aged between 6 and 14 years of age would appear from alleys, out of trees, off buildings. These kids were homeless and hungry and we were there to feed them. It took time for trust to grow between both sides and after a while I came to understand that these kids were protecting us; they had spread the word on the streets and we were never harmed.
Sunday supper of soup and sandwiches soon had a new item added to the menu
– hugs – lots and lots of hugs.