I couldn’t park outside work last night. Not particularly surprising given that it was a warm sunny (ish) friday evening in June but it did mean that I was a bit late to work as I had to park on the high street and cut through the church yard and along the front to the pub.
Leaving in the dark five hours later I did consider taking the streetlight lit way back to the car but being tired and just wanting to get home I went back the way I came. As I started walking back through the churchyard I noticed a man approaching me. I nodded as we passed and continued on engrossed in replying to a text. I happened to glance over my shoulder and realised that he had stopped, turned round and was walking towards me. He caught my eye and said ‘hey’. I completely freaked out. I let out a strangled ‘bye’ and sprinted out onto the high street and down to my car.
As I sat in the car, doors locked and heart pounding I felt like a complete idiot. Why on earth did my gut tell me to run away?! He was probably completely innocent. Perhaps he wanted to ask the time or maybe he thought he recognised me. I probably made him feel awful by running away when he did nothing more but greet me.
It made me wonder, was this my overactive imagination at work or would have other women reacted in the same way. At what point did a culture of fear permeate our society to the extent that we see strangers firstmost as potential threats instead of fellow human beings. Where has our trust in the kindness of strangers gone?
I’m not saying we shouldn’t be sensible about risks and choices that we make but maybe we err on the side of fear and caution too much. Or is it a sad fact that there is much more crime than 20, 50 years ago and that our instincts are an evolved reaction to the state of the world around us?
The news is full of stories of violence, rape, murder. Are we simply reporting more than we used to or is it really on the rise? I don’t know the answers but I do know that I don’t want my children to grow up in fear, suspicious of strangers. I want them to be safe, to be able to make well informed sensible decisions, not to be instantly distrusting but also not to be naive.
I have no idea how to achieve this, how to impart these values and skills. I suspect part of it depends on the community that you live in. A closer knit community means that you can get to know and trust those around you. I’m aware that that isn’t always possible though. So I guess it’s just finding the fine line between making wise choices (streetlit road over dark churchyard!) and not living in fear of the unknown. I still want them to be able to stop and help folk in need though even if others are passing on by, wary of what they don’t know.
Those of you with older children, would love to hear your thoughts on teaching them to be safe but not fearful…