Age of lost Innocence

Go in thy native innocence, rely
On what thou hast of virtue, summon all,
For God towards thee hath done his part, do thine.

JOHN MILTON, Paradise Lost

(photograph: statues in park — Chicago, Illinois / Julie Cook /2013)

Isn’t this a great image—life among the lifeless. There is a small park in downtown Chicago, along Michigan Ave, that has life size sculptures of human forms cast in bronze and aluminum positioned throughout the park in very life like poses–some are sitting on the benches, some kneeling on the grass, some standing with faces looking upward as if gazing heavenward. The sculptures are either silver or a brownish bronze color–basically unisex, without definitive facial features.

Visitors to the park naturally want to interact with the statues. Children climb on them, people (aka tourists) pose with them, pigeons and seagulls desecrate them, and many people just exist among them–namely the current homeless individuals who are seeking refuge on one of the park’s many benches. I found them both inviting and, well, “put-offish”—meaning I didn’t feel like running up to them and interacting but I was, however, drawn to them by curiosity.

Today at home the front doorbell rang. This always sends me in a heightened state of alarm as we live out a bit, in a more rural section of our community, with our house situated a good bit off the road. Anyone coming to our house is most likely someone I know. When the front doorbell rings, that usually means a “stranger.” Today, however, I was expecting the AT&T guy coming to upgrade our modem as we are technological dinosaurs. It was high time we move forward a bit more into this new century.

When I went to the door, I saw two young men, sans any sort of uniform or identifying clothing, standing on my front walk–arms full of papers and an iPad. “AT&T?” I ask a bit concerned. The one young man closest to me asks in an unmistakable “slavic-esque” accent–“Oh you want cell phone?” all with a sweet smile. “No” I flatly answer even more confused. The young man immediately introduces himself and his friend and hands me a bunch of paperwork, legal documents, all as he’s telling me that they are students from Europe.

The paperwork includes what I assume is documentation from our local police and sheriff’s office approving them to be “peddling” whatever it is that they are about to attempt peddling in my direction. I ask where it is that they are from as I recognize the accent as eastern Eropean—wondering if it is not Russian as I have taught numerous Russian kids. “We are from Estonia” he tells me.

The young man closest to me then begins asking if I have children and that they are…immediately I cut him off as I know that they are trying to sell educational information for young children. I politely explain that I am a retired educator with a grown son.
“No, you cannot be retired, you look so young, what is your secret?”
“Good genes I suppose”
“Oh I will never be so fortunate”
I ask him how old he is and he responds
“Well, see you don’t look 25….”
…and then I think that at 25, you don’t want to be told that you look younger than you are, so I just stop.

He kept fumbling with the papers, notebooks and the iPad, which had Google maps pulled up to a map of my street, house, etc. I tell them that there are subdivisions scattered about that may have parents interested in the books but that I was not interested. He turns the iPad in my directions asking me about my neighbors pointing at house after house on the screen. All of this is a bit disconcerting as he just keeps on pointing to house after house on the iPad inquiring about potential buyers—all while I try as politely but firmly as possible to send them on their way.

All the while all sorts of bad scenarios are running through my mind..with the main concern being that these guys are not legit–perhaps simply working under the assumption of being educational book salesmen all the while with some sort of sinister underlying plan taking place. Maybe my husband comes home this evening to find that I have “vanished without a trace”….

I hate being suspicious and I hate feeling creeped out by two nice looking young men, the same age as my son, who are here in this country from Estonia, for God knows what, “working a summer job” peddling books. I want to think that what they told me was the truth–I want to believe people. However given the time in which we live, with the local, as well as national, News reminding us daily that we live with bad people who are often deranged or simply intent on harming others— yesterday morning I was less than at ease standing at my front door.

When I was young, I went door to door selling my Girl Scout cookies. I dressed up on Halloween and went door to door ringing bells in search of treats vs tricks. I rode my bike to the local mall to “hang out” with my friends who also had ridden their bikes to the mall. Did I let my young son do any of the things that I did when he was little? No! When he was a cub scout, he sold his popcorn to my fellow colleagues at school, going from classroom to classroom after school vs door to door of “strangers”. He rode his bike up and down our driveway only. He “trick or treated” only to the houses of his grandparents and cousins.

Life is not as simple as it once was. We live in a day of suspicion and of constant danger–or so it seems. Look at Ohio and the three girls held hostage for so long that they are now grown woman–all happening under the watchful eyes of an unassuming neighborhood. The cases of Elizabeth Smart and Casey Dugard—and the latest story of Hannah Anderson…not to mention the hundreds of missing children who are going “missing” each and every day that simply don’t make the headlines.

Vigilance is the key word when traveling, most usually abroad as American tourists must be ever mindful of where they are at all times, but sadly, that same vigilance is now necessary in our own front yards.

When the boys got back into their car and drove up my driveway, I pulled the door shut, locking it, hoping the AT&T man would hurry up……..

6 comments on “Age of lost Innocence

  1. Lynda says:

    This is the reality of the world in which we live but, at the same time, we cannot live suspecting each person of some malicious intent. We must remember that the vast majority of people are good; having said that, your reference to “vigilance” is certainly a wise admonition. God is present in all circumstances and we are called to see Christ in all people. Trust in God is key to living in peace.

    • Whenever that fight or flight instinct attempts to rise up from deep within my core being, my mind works to remind the rest of me that I am to be a witness of Christ no matter what…pulling up the courage to stand firmly planted and live the moment–yet with a sense of awareness constantly turned on—it’s just that I hate thinking bad before good—was a time that it was always the good before the bad…working on ever trusting both myself and others—thank you Lynda……

      • Lynda says:

        Trust is a very elusive thing for most of us. I have trust in people in general but when we have been betrayed by someone close like a spouse, it is so very difficult to get over the fear of being rejected and abandoned. That is definitely my trust challenge but God and I are working to heal that area of my life.

      • Lynda says:

        I should add that God has given me an amazing spiritual director who has patiently journeyed through this with me. I cannot do this on my own.

  2. Excellent post. I have two young boys (ages 9 and 6) and the trust factor is definitely lower now than it was when I was a child. Back then, it was fairly common for my brother and I to be gone for most of the day during the summer playing with friends. My parents always wanted to know where we were but beyond that were not overly concerned about our safety. It is different now.

  3. Val says:

    As I have been attacked in “safe” places, and actually feel safer in so many of the “terrible” places I so often frequent (including the ghettoish neighborhood I call home) because those are the places I tend to know the homeless people on a first-name basis and know my neighbors. I lived with an extremely paranoid roommate for awhile…in the dark…under lockdown. It is good to be wary to a degree, but too much can make you a prisoner in your own life. There is a balance.

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