I was running errands yesterday afternoon at my new favorite shopping area near Camelback and 18th Street. It’s not too far from home, has most of my favorite stores and a big parking lot, and I don’t have to brave much traffic to get there. So I stopped on the way home from work today to try and hack away at my to-do list, and passed a woman sleeping on a bench.

I’m guessing she was homeless, from the state of her clothing and the battered knapsack on the seat next to her. She looked pretty peaceful, in spite of the roar of the traffic and people walking past. I wondered how she could sleep in public like that, and it made me think about safety, and how we each have our own version of it.

I grew up in Europe and Asia, and rode trains and subways from age 11 to 18. We felt safe as the cars cruised along the tracks, rocking to their own rhythm. I often fell asleep between stations, waking just in time to jump off at my stop and walk home. We never worried about riding late at night, or missing our stop; trains and subways were a way of life for us.

My father used to tell a story of riding the Shinkansen (Japan’s bullet train), and how he watched a man wake just as the doors were closing at his stop, jump off the train – and stand on the platform in his socks as he watched his shoes disappear into the distance.

Fast forward to today. I’m not sure, if I were to ride a subway in New York City, that I’d feel that same level of comfort. I’m okay riding the T in Boston, or Amtrak, but a NYC subway is a wee bit scarier. Or maybe it’s just that it’s unfamiliar.

We all have our comfort zones. I can fall asleep on a bus or train or airplane. But there’s no way I could fall asleep on a bench at a strip mall. But if you’re homeless, you have to learn new coping mechanisms. I guess sleeping on a Thursday afternoon in front of Bed, Bath and Beyond is as safe as she gets. Maybe that allows her to stay awake and on guard through the night.

We take our safety for granted, when we have a roof over our heads and a soft bed in which to spend our nights. But imagine how it would feel if that safety vanished? If you didn’t have a lock on your door – heck, if you didn’t have a door.

Anyway, I’m not sure where I’m going with this. Just thinking about how lucky I am that I DO have a safe place to spend my days, and nights. That I don’t have to wonder where I’m going to be tonight, and if I’ll be able to sleep there. And if I’ll feel safe.

Take a moment to appreciate what you have, because it’s a gift. We take what we have for granted, and wish we had more. But there are some who would love to have half of what we have. Ever hear the saying about how if you lost everything you owned, and then got it back, how happy you’d be? Think about it.

Look around you. Appreciate what you have. You’re incredibly lucky. You didn’t spend the afternoon sleeping on a bench off Camelback today…

I hope wherever she is, she’s warm and safe tonight. And I hope the same for you.

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6 Responses to Safe

  1. Whit says:

    Hi Beth,

    I agree with you that most of us are incredibly lucky. In Europe I also fell asleep in train stations and trains before. However, I’m like you about the NYC subway in that I think I would be more on my guard. But as things go with any big city there are always places you need to keep your eyes open.

    I too hope the woman found a safe and warm place to sleep.

    Take care

    • Beth says:

      Of course we were on trains in Europe a few years ago, Whit! But I can’t imagine it’s changed that much. One can always find a place to take a nap. 🙂

  2. LoriH says:

    Or, you can have the door and the lock AND an alarm, and still have someone dead set on a home invasion to make you feel unsafe. Believe me, walls, doors, alarms and probably nuclear weaponry no longer make me feel safe. Sad, but with experiences like these comes….not sure, wisdom? anxiety? sleeplessness? All of the above?

    Anway, just thought I throw it out there that you are never really as safe as you think you are.

    • Beth says:

      Oh Lori, I hope there’s somewhere you feel safe. It’s all a matter of attitude and perspective. There’s always a dark side, but I can’t give it that much power over me. Call me Pollyanna, but I want to believe I’m safe in those places I call home. It’s a choice…and it might be a foolish one, but I’ve been called that before! Big hugs.

  3. Julie says:

    What this writing has prompted in me is the realization that I have been adventurous enough to travel through parts of my metropolis that are categorized as not safe. Invariably, I am trying to find a path which avoids traffic build up, so I get off the beaten paths. Just Tuesday, I turned and drove into a neighborhood that in the past may have been a hot bed of criminal activity. But, I made it through safely and saw nothing worse than the occasional person out on the street or a car turning into a driveway. I have been doing this sort of stuff since I was able to drive, and I am surprised at myself sometimes. I do make sure my car doors are locked and keep an eye about me, if needed. But, all in all, I end up learning a bit more about an area I was unfamiliar with and may even come upon a building (usually an old one) that surprises and delights me.

    I also think that mentality applies to the traveler, such as yourself, Beth. There are some people (like my granddad) that, for whatever reason, will absolutely not leave their home beyond 30 miles. Even when offers of fabulous trips were extended, this man would not budge. But, people willing to experience new places and people must have some degree of safety regarding these unknowns that others, like my granddad, do not.

    • Beth says:

      I’m glad it made you think, Julie. And what insight! Maybe carrying that feeling of safety does come from my traveling – and yours, exploring places that others might think too dangerous to venture into. In the end, you are aware, and you do fine.

      Although in Venezuela we wandered a block in the wrong direction, and a man stopped us and warned us to turn around immediately, because if we continued in that direction – and he mimicked a weapon pointed at his temple, and into his side. We got the message. We turned around.

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment! I hope you have an adventurous day, wherever you end up!

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