Forty-five years ago, when I was young and believed I would never be an old lady, a neighbor knocked on my door with a petition.
“Since you live at the dead-end, we thought you might be willing to spearhead our protest. ‘They’ want to build an old-age home at the end of the street next door to you. We are opposing it!”
“Why?” I asked.
“Old people get sick and die. Ambulances will be going up and down the street.”
I refused. We need to make room for each other.
Now I am an old lady and I wish the home for seniors was next door. How convenient that would be. I could move there easily, carrying a big green hefty bag full of my belongings.
Instead, in that spot, are dozens of high-end houses. Yesterday, as I was taking my garbage out, one of the high-end home dwellers recently from New York City stopped and asked, “How do you feel about more houses being built? I think it’s too much.”
People have to live somewhere. It’s a bigger problem than our little neighborhood.
Too many people causing global warming, disease, famine and pestilence. People in expensive homes have to live somewhere, too.
I didn’t tell her that. I was much more polite. With as much tact as I could muster up, I told her there is some resentment here towards people recently relocated here from New York City who are often blamed for traffic headaches and a whole litany of other problems. We are afraid the city folks will change the town we love into something unrecognizable.
Fear is the driving force at the heart of most objections.
Oprah Winfrey said, “Fear is the opposite of love.” I disagree. Fear and love are bonded together as close as siblings, inextricably coiled like a strand of rope. Fear is the part visible. Love is unseen, but the driving force behind almost all fears.
Fear most often rises when what we love, we believe is threatened. Fear is what we feel when we are afraid to lose what we love.
This is an equal opportunity truth. Those who voted for Trump were afraid to lose the USA they love by the browning of America and a host of other apprehensions. I voted for Biden because I feared that a mad, deranged president could kill everything I love. The anti-vaxxers are afraid the vaccine will kill them. The vaccinated are afraid Covid will do the same. Just this morning I got off my skis because I love my body. I was scared the wind and ice would break my 76-year-old legs if I fell. I missed out on a beautiful opportunity to ski during the first good snow.
See the love lurking underneath your fears. Try it, it will be edifying.
Fortunately, the majority of our fears, unless we know for certain our plane is about to crash, are imaginary. There are good reasons to be afraid when indications of possible troubles to come are predictable, but outcomes are not yet known and could be very different than what we fear.
Often we fear other people; especially when they are very different from us.
There are eight level-3 sex offenders living in New Paltz. Many of us are afraid to lose what we love if our children and citizens could come to harm from these individuals.
I walked by a room in the prison where I volunteered for 15 years and saw the strangest sight. White, black, old, young, Hasidic, Islamic and Hispanic men were all in the same classroom. Those are the sex offenders I was told. Sex offenses could be perpetrated by anyone, even Prince Andrew. Due to massive discrimination in our justice system, we will never see his ilk in that room.
Although fear of sex offenders is prevalent, irrational fear can cause more harm and make us way less safe. We have always lived among sex offenders. In Ulster County there are currently 307.
I remember vividly two shocking tragic murders, although I have been told there have been several more that I do not recall. There have been sex offenses committed by family members, family friends along with robberies and rapes. I do not remember a child abduction or violent crime committed by a formerly incarcerated sex offender living in our midst, but my memory is not as accurate as a deep dive into statistics. Nevertheless, there is always a reason for rational thoughtful measures to be in place to keep us safe. What we do not want is our fear to drive these men into tents in the woods. Then their whereabouts are unknown and they have no accountability to the community, which from a safety standpoint, makes no sense.
The problem with fear is that it obliterates rational solutions.
The sun is out. The wind is still strong. Instead of fearing the worse, I may as well predict the best outcome and assume my legs will carry me through the snow. I’ll let you know.