Shortly after moving into the Peace Center, we found a feral cat wandering around the outside of the building. It took some time, of course, but eventually it responded to the food we left for it and then, even let us begin to pet it a little each day. There were lots of cats around so we gave them each names just to tell them apart. Sometimes we did not know their gender, so our adopted cat became “Spike” before we knew she was a girl. The name has stayed with her.
Spike is afraid of everything. She jumps at the least noise and, trust me, we have lots of that with car doors slamming, cement trucks driving by, people coming in and out of the Center. She tries very hard to avoid it all, and we have to adapt to her chosen feeding spots to keep her away from the turmoil. Why is she so afraid? Who knows? She just is, and she will not be moved.
We always try to figure out why someone is afraid of something, don’t we? In this case, was the cat abused and put in scary situations as she grew up? There is no way to really know, but how to create less scary times for her is a real learning for us.
So how are we with people who have fears? I don’t mean phobias – those are tough to deal with in everyday life. I mean fears based on ignorance and lack of information, fears based on stereotypes about people who are different. Those kinds of fears can be “unlearned,” maybe slowly but it is not impossible. Fear of the dark is one thing; fear of the dark skinned is another. Fear of losing one’s home is one thing; fear of the homeless and disabled is another. Fear of being poor is one thing; fear of those who are poor is another. So ultimately, it is the person who matters, not their fears. How can we be less fearful?