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I'm the Local Gal in Richmond, Indiana, exploring my hometown and heart. I write about all thing local, sometimes global. It's a small world after all.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Speaking to Strangers in Richmond, Indiana

The Local-Lady blog has been quiet now since Wednesday. I took some time off the computer to spend time with family and friends. It's good to step away from the screen sometimes. I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day weekend. We did. Our family is grateful for the veterans in our lives, the people in military service and thoughtful remembering those who didn't make it home...


I've lived in Richmond well over twenty years now. I know which neighborhoods not to walk in alone. I know where to stand in the sun, in view safely. I know where to run if there's trouble, who to call. When I look outside I see and know my neighbors. We watch for each other. But if I were a stranger, how would I see this city?

Bicycle Rust Sculpture

We walk and bike primarily for transportation. Being on foot or two wheels keeps us on a street level car drivers cannot know. We are stopped by passersby. We watch for the irises to bloom because we know which corner they'll be growing.

Last summer, on his way to work, my husband was stopped by a man on the street. This man had nothing but a pack on his back and the shoes on his feet. He was a man from Detroit, Michigan traveling by foot. “There's nothing there. That city is dying, so I'm making my way south to look for something” Here was a man from Detroit, traveling by foot. He told my husband that Richmond scared him. “This place is ghetto!” “I'm afraid here!” My husband walked with him awhile. He showed him the police station. They parted ways. We couldn't tell you his name.

This isn't the first time a stranger has expressed their fears to us.

He was tall and had grey hair. At first sight I took him for another bum on a bench, but when I rushed out to kiss the children, he smiled. He was not dirty. I didn't feel that he was bad. I could feel he was listening while we talked about flowers and birds and playground excursions. Finally, he spoke “Are you from around here?” He asked the whole family. “Yes, we are from here,” we answered. “What can you do in this town if you have a few hours?”

Empty Bench in Richmond, Indiana
I pointed out the downtown center city area. I pointed the way to the Depot District. He interrupted:

“I'm afraid!” He went on, “I've been sitting here scared. I'm not from here. I am stranded. I don't know this town, and it frightens me.” He told us a bit about his bad luck and his hard life, “I've cried many tears and said many prayers.” I looked at this large man and wondered that a tall man was speaking to a small woman of his fears sitting alone on a city bench. But then I understood. I know where to go, who to call. I know which street is safe and which street on which I should not be alone. He was a stranger.

All we could do was listen. All we could do was say: “Here you are safe”, “This is where you can go for help, for information”, “If you are hungry you can go this way”.

He told us his name, and we told him ours. I couldn't tell you what his name was but I remember his face. He was from Texas. He was Navajo. I know he was Navajo because he said, “Yá'át'ééh” before he turned to go.

Graffiti can be beautiful. This isn't an example of that sort, however.

We need to do more to fight the decay in this city. It frightens the people who move through it. When we own our place and show that it is loved, people will know that we care.

So how do we change these fears? Say hello, plant more irises. Smile at a stranger and dispel each other's fears.

<3 Your Local Gal

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