Sunday, July 27, 2014

A benign stranger

Last weekend the boys and I joined Chris at the Columbus (Indiana) Visitors Center, where he was participating in an outdoor, public practice with the Southern Indiana Pipes and Drums. While he played, the boys ran around and played. They made friends with two young girls who were also hanging around the plaza, chasing each other around a giant sculpture.

The other mom and I sat on the low wall, watching the kids, listening to the music.

"Do you see that man over there?" she suddenly asked me, nodding toward a man leaning against a wall watching the kids play. "He's watching the kids and it's making me nervous."

"He's probably enjoying watching them play," I said, with a shrug. There were several people hanging around, stopping to listen to the bagpipers as they passed by. Some would stop on the steps to the Bartholomew County Public Library, right next to the Visitors Center, where this particular man was leaning.

"I hope so," she said, obviously not reassured.

I didn't really think much about the man, as he seemed to just be enjoying the music and watching the kids chasing and laughing. How many women do the same with no one noticing, much less commenting?

Then the kids ran back across the plaza to chase around the sculpture again. Mom followed them, keeping a vigilant eye on her girls. And a few minutes later the 'suspicious' man walked across the plaza, past the sculpture, and stood on the corner just across from the sculpture.

I admit I paid some attention at that point. He was a middle aged man wearing sunglasses and a slouchy hat. The timing of his changing position was... interesting. I didn't think anything was actually going to happen, but that did make me just a little... worried isn't quite the right word, but aware. Yes, aware. I'm betting Mom had alarm bells ringing. I'm actually surprised she didn't gather her kids and leave immediately.

Maybe ten minutes later, a city bus stopped at the corner and the man got on. He was just waiting for a bus.

I refrained from saying anything to the other mom, but I hope she noticed. I hope she realized that he was just someone who happened to be there and was enjoying the day. I hope she realized, at least later when she could think back without the panic of immediacy, that most people are good, that most people are just going about their day, and that most people who smile as they watch kids are just enjoying watching the kids play.

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