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To a man I do not know, but one whose fear and shame I recognized in myself.
I believe that we are all the same. We developed in a mother’s womb. We are all created the same way; we are all the same.
Until we are born: the life we are born into shapes and molds us and circumstance takes the wheel.
One evening in September, I was sitting in my backyard in our hot tub waiting for my husband to join me. I hadn’t turned the jets on yet and was listing to the wind chimes and seagrass bowing in the breeze. Then, I heard a loud noise behind me. It sounded like the wood pile stacked up against the fence had fallen over.
I turned and looked toward the noise and a man walked out from behind our shed. He had apparently jumped the the seven-foot privacy fence that surrounds our yard and landed in the wood pile.
If you’ve read any of my previous articles you would know that I am a trauma survivor a few times over. I work hard to not live in a state of fear.
When I first saw him, I was shocked and confused, and my trauma response started to asses the situation. But in the seconds that this happened, I noticed something familiar in this man.
I saw myself in his fear. I saw myself in his shame.
His fear of how I would react was apparent. Our eyes met for a second and then he lowered his head and raised both hands.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” he said.
Like an animal, I stayed still and quiet, not saying one word. Breathing in and out, I remained motionless.
I was hoping that his trauma, his animal, would sense that I was not a threat.
And I let him pass just a foot away from me, as I froze in place in the hot tub—I could have gone to the other side or jumped out. I could have screamed for my husband, whose fear response could have also changed the story. The outcome could have been very different.
Instead, he left our yard through the driveway.
It was five minutes after he left that fear truly came. A car came speeding into our dead end street. There were children playing outside, but the car paid no mind to them—the driver was focused on only one thing. The car whipped in front of our driveway and a woman jumped out and asked if we had seen a man. We said yes. At this point, we thought he had done something really bad.
She was full of rage and was desperate to find him.
Her rage unsettled me more than the man did.
When we told her we didn’t see which way he went, she then got back in the car and sped back out of our neighborhood, again not paying mind to the children playing.
Out of caution, we called the police department just to report that someone did come into our yard—and also letting the police know the man had done nothing while in our yard. When the police officer came to the house, we told him what happened and he informed us that the man tried stealing food from the ShopRite.
He did not get away with the food—he had dropped it and ran empty-handed. He had used no weapon.
I’d had more fear of the people in the vehicle who had chased this man down across the parking lot, which led to him jumping the fence and going into our yard.
Could you imagine the trauma in having to steal food?
At the moment, it Sunday, and as I write this, I am sitting under a warm blanket in my home on my soft couch in front of a fire with a full belly and love next to me.
“According to the USDA, more than 38 million people, including 12 million children, in the United States are food insecure.” ~ Feeding America
Tonight, I pray that the man who needed food has it. I pray that this man has peace and a warm home. I pray that he is blessed with love. I pray that in my eyes he saw my compassion for his circumstance.
I pray for all of that instead of acting from the fear and rage with which we so often look down on humanity—I pray that we see ourselves.
I pray that we stop using guns to protect ourselves, that we stop using rage as a vehicle to answer fear.
For all of this, I will continue to pray.