Taking Chances and Living Without Fear
She appeared out of no where, or so it seemed. This stranger, a woman of about 45 years of age, approached me in the parking lot while I was loading groceries into my vehicle. She asked matter of factly if I could give her a ride home because her car had broken down and had to be towed. She looked normal enough so there was nothing that visibly appeared to be a threat. Still, that little voice inside me warned me to think twice, to be careful, and to assess the situation before responding. So, I paused.
It was an awkward moment and one that surprised even me. It is my nature to be helpful but this time, well, this time just felt different. After a few moments of silence, I asked this woman where she needed to go and of course it was in the opposite direction of my next destination.I fell silent again. When I could not come up with a good reason not to provide the transportation she needed, I reluctantly agreed.
Now, I should probably tell you that I behaved rather badly. Before I even started the car I asked the woman for some identification. She promptly provided a driver’s license. I didn’t tell her that I am visually impaired but instead, pretended that I could read the name and address on the small plastic card. She didn’t appear to notice that I didn’t call her by name. How could I? I couldn’t read it.
This woman was more than courteous. She offered to help load my groceries and then, to roll the empty cart back to the store for me. My response was negative and cold. I would do it myself. Surprised at my reaction, the woman again tried to engage me and failed. She made small talk as we settled ourselves in the car and continued while I drove the approximate four miles to where she asked to be dropped off. My responses were monotone and uninviting of more conversation. What on earth was wrong with me, I wondered.
We arrived at the drop off location and the woman thanked me and exited my car. I breathed a sigh of relief and headed home wondering why I had reacted this way. It took quite a bit of self-examination and honesty but I finally understood. This, is the world we live in now and it is a world that makes being kind to strangers more difficult and somewhat risky. Ashamed of my own behavior, I was determined to analyze it, to find some peace about this apparent paranoia I had experienced.
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I think I understand it and it’s all about the news. We watch too much and are bombarded with messages of how bad our society has become. Local or national, it doesn’t matter. Every day we hear stories of strangers threatening or harming others. We hear that trust is a thing of the past and that every one is a potential threat to our safety and security. Although I didn’t actually attach words to my feelings, I soon understood that I was indeed paranoid about this stranger and I am still wondering if my asking to see her identification could have thwarted some potential scam she might have planned. I am not proud of my behavior but intuitively I couldn't ignore the feelings.
Learn About Those Red Flags
My intuition is generally good enough to protect me and I have learned to trust it. I am not sorry that I was cautious with this stranger but I have certainly been left wondering about the validity of the red flags. There were several oddities about this encounter.
- The woman appeared from the center of the parking lot. Was she standing there watching for a likely victim or, had the tow truck just left? I remember wondering why she would have her car towed but not arrange transportation for herself. There was no indication that she had a cell phone and I recall thinking – doesn’t everyone have a cell phone these days?
- She had no groceries with her. Had she just arrived at the store and if so, did her car die on her while she was parking? Or, had she left her groceries in the car being towed? I had many questions and no answers.
- When she exited the car, the woman barely muttered a thank you and made no offer of gas money or apology for the fact that I had gone out of my way to deliver her. I know that sounds superficial but remember that I was feeling quite paranoid about this entire event.
The Me I Used To Know
Once home, I continued to be critical of my actions. I didn’t recognize this person who hesitated so when asked to help. That’s not who I am. Even as a young girl, I picked up hitchhikers and stray dogs and delivered them to a safe place. It’s what we did back in the 70’s when love was the universal language. Some of my best memories of my youth are of the people I met when a stranger caught my eye or whistled a cat-call in my direction. Somehow those strangers became friends and we partied together in the years to come.
Is it my age? Have I finally grown up or, have I become a victim of the media. Have I heard so many horror stories about scammers and thieves, axe murderers and rapists that I don’t trust anyone anymore? This is not the world I want to live in. I know that much.
"I have learned over the years that when one's mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear". - Rosa Parks
The Person I Will Be Now
I grew up in rural America among families that looked after each other. We didn’t have to lock our doors and everyone was considered good until they proved they weren’t. My parents taught that most people are good if you give them a chance and that in general, bad things don’t happen to good people. I learned to trust my instinct and it served me well.
I have shredded the incident at the grocery store into a million pieces, looking for that tiny piece of evidence that I had misjudged the situation and reacted out of an unjustified state of paranoia. My conclusion is this…
Sometimes in life we just have to take chances. The alternative is to live in fear and a state of constant paranoia. I cannot and will not succumb to such negative thoughts. I choose to believe the teachings of my parents and to go on believing that we have a destiny and that even negative events are teachers. I will not take foolish risks but I will not hide from the world either.
Perhaps I needed this lesson, to remind me that the world has changed. Perhaps this woman came to teach me to listen to my intuition but to always do the right thing. That woman could have been me or someone I loved that was stranded without a phone. I would hope that a kind hearted stranger would take a chance on me too.
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