I live each day based on gut instinct. It speaks to me, I follow it, and things usually work out in such a way that I am glad I don’t question my gut. It tends to be when I do NOT listen to my gut that I get in trouble.
Yesterday while driving to pick up my son from school I noticed a man sitting on the street in a back alley nearby. We live in the burbs, and the school is not in an area where people just “hang out.” There’s really no street traffic, no reason for people to walk by the school as it IS the destination. There are men working around there regularly, but it’s obvious they are working on the roof, taking out the trash, on a smoke break, etc. This man, who did not “look” homeless nor did he fit the profile of nearby workers, just sat on the street, drinking out of a can of something, staring off. And he did not look like he was on a break. He looked up as my car approached, and the look he gave me is almost indescribable: anger? fear? hate? disgust? It was the farthest from a smile, it was quite an onbvious glare. I met his gaze briefly, noted he looked like a sad version of a man I used to work with -almost shoulder length straight light brown/dirty blond hair, thin nose and thin build, light facial hair – and then I looked away and drove on. For whatever reason, he gave me the creeps. I couldn’t shake the feeling. I went into the school, hugged my son, and swept him into the car and off we went. He made such an impression on me, this man, that I kept thinking about him for the rest of the day.
Then this morning, as I was leaving the school, I saw the man again. I don’t know why, but for some reason as I was driving away, I looked toward an apartment building in an area I honestly never look at because I’m usually in such a hurry, and there he was. He was standing under an awning and for a moment I wondered if he lived there, but he looked at me again, and I knew he didn’t. He was just trying to stay out of the rain. Everything about his posture and movement told me he was ready to move at a moment’s notice should someone ask him to. He was not comfortable. He again gave me the same look. It lasted only a second or two, and then my car took me in the opposite direction. I drove away with the same awful, uneasy feeling. He was wearing the same slightly oversized purple shirt he wore the day before, and, it appeared, he was drinking out of the same or at least a similar can.
I drove away and debated with myself: should I call the school? Should I forget about it and not call? Maybe he was the guest of one of the apartment dwellers and had nothing to do while his friend was at work during the day? I had a terrible, terrible feeling that I just could not shake. This guy was not homeless, nor was he the father of one of the school kids, nor was he an employee of a nearby business. Why was I feeling so strongly about this? As I pulled into a gas station to fill up, I called the school. I felt a little silly talking to the director about the man, but it felt right. It still feels right. It was such a strong feeling that I almost drove back to the school and pulled my son out for the day: my gut wasn’t talking to me, it was YELLING at me.
And so I hung up the phone, paid for my gas, and drove to work. The feeling went away after a while, and I presumed all was well. When I picked up my son from school, the man was nowhere in sight.
Sometimes I feel so silly for having such strong reactions. I worry that I’m overreacting. But when it comes to my family, I would rather risk offending a stranger than risk the safety of my family.
I hate that I feel this way. This worry, this instinct, this fear. As my kids get older, and I’m no longer able to be with them all the time, I hate it. I hate letting go and trusting their care to others sometimes. I know they are safe with the people I trust to care for them; it’s the other people whom they may encounter along the way that I can never predict may exist that I do not trust. It’s the “what if” that I can never foreshadow, the unthinkables I can never prepare for or prevent.
I don’t hate many things, but I hate this fear. I woke up today feeling like there really is good in the world that lies within each person, and underneath every circumstance lies good intentions. I have to hold onto that faith that all people at the core are decent. I have to believe. If I don’t, I think I will just be a total wreck anytime we step outside. I wish there were nothing to fear for our children. That we could send them to school and KNOW 100% without a doubt that nothing bad would ever happen to them. We don’t live in that world, unfortunately, so I suppose I have to just hold onto my faith in humanity, and follow my gut when it sends me red flags. In these instances, I am actually happy when my gut feeling is wrong, and there’s proof that I really don’t have anything to worry about.