Sometimes I think living in the city has ruined me.
I grew up in a small town – the type where everybody knows everybody and if you pass someone you don’t necessarily know but do at least recognize walking along the road – you’re expected to pull over and offer them a ride.
When I moved to the city, I couldn’t walk past a homeless person downtown without stopping. I knew their names, I knew their stories, and I had absolutely no qualms about reaching into my backpack or scrounging through my wallet in search of spare change or bus tickets. The possibility of being mugged (or worse) never crossed my mind.
Then I moved to Edmonton.
The first week I lived here, my roommate gave me a crash course on survival:
Don’t make eye contact.
Don’t talk to strangers.
She gave me a list of “bad areas” to avoid – but also informed me that because of the gang activity in our city, I could be killed just because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I carried a hoof pick in my back pocket at all times.
I followed the rules to a T – but four months after moving to the city I had an opportunity to use that hoof pick – and a steel-toed boot – when I was followed home from the bus stop. He attempted to grab me from behind but I was able to channel my inner Sydney Bristow and get away.
And fear changed me.
Now I’m the girl who walks from the bus stop to my work each morning with my head down, avoiding eye contact, hoping that none of the three homeless men I pass every single day on the way to work will speak to me. I’m the girl who never carries cash because if someone asks if I have any spare change, I don’t want to be lying when I say no. It’s been two years, and I’ve never spoken to the man who lives in our dumpster.
Have I let fear strip me of my compassion?
* I found this sitting in my drafts folder – I wrote it more than two years ago, and still don’t have an answer …