Fear and Compassion.

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 …

Comments

  1. says

    Holly, I loved this post. So beautifully written, and unfortunately so realistic. The world is so sad sometimes. Sirry you had a scary experience like this.

  2. says

    So scary! Glad you had your hoof pick and were able to get away. Halifax isn’t a huge city by any means but it has scary areas as well. I actually feel a lot safer in a legitimately big city (NYC, Toronto) than here.

  3. says

    I don’t know what happened, but for some reason my GReader had “lost” your subscription and I didn’t see your latest blog posts until now. Strange.
    I can empathize to the feeling of wanting to protect yourself and not letting fear strip you of your compassion.
    We used to live downtown and there were many homeless people around. I must say, that I was never ‘afraid’ of them, but I also didn’t seek out interaction. Every now and then I would talk to someone and they would turn out to be really nice. Sometimes, we just have to open our eyes to the people around us.

  4. says

    There’s such a difficult line to tow on this subject. While I think compassion is important and wonderful and very important, if you let yourself dwell on the people that you “could’ve helped”, you might not be doing the best thing for yourself. A yoga instructor of mine once told me that “you need to heal yourself and make yourself the best person you can be before you help others”. Basically, worry about yourself first and it will actually make it easier for you to help others when the right opportunities arise.

    Catherine
    FEST (food, style & travel)

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