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Harmony in the ‘Burg: Mystery woman

April 17, 2013

There is a woman in our town who many of us have spoken of, that we see her walking, always walking, like she’s going somewhere and not just meandering. The curious thing is that she carries a small bag or two (not a big bag like a bag woman) and always one of those Mexican blankets kind of thrown over her arm. She appears to be a fairly middle class woman with a pleasant look on her face like she is just walking somewhere and enjoys it. She must walk miles every day.  Maybe she is walking too and from work. Maybe just for exercise. Maybe like Forrest Gump.


She passed our office again the other day and I grabbed my camera before she got completely out of sight. I’m glad my picture is a little fuzzy and from the back, because no one could every positively identify her from it. I didn’t ask permission to “take” this woman’s photo. I once heard marvelous photographer Howard Zehr talk about his philosophy and approach to photographing people and how he always (I think he used that word) gets permission or else it is truly “taking” something from that person to steal their image. He talks about the need to build community with our image taking. I hope I am trying to do that here–and not just be nosy.

Most small towns have certain people who make the rounds and cause our curiosity meters to zoom. Who is this woman, does she have a job, a home?

Maybe someone local will fill me in. Maybe sometime when I am out walking I’ll cross paths with her and be able to ask her my burning questions that are maybe no one’s business but her own. Or is she our business? Should I care?

Given the events in Boston this week, I’m reminded that we are all on this planet together and other people’s business is our business. If we see abandoned packages, we’re supposed to call numbers in subways. If we see strange people doing strange things, we’re supposed to speak up.

I’m sure this woman is just a normal woman who enjoys walking and saving gas (maybe people wonder about me walking on my lunch hour frequently). Can anyone enlighten me? Us? Do you care about such things? Should I take my nosy journalism nose and write about something else?

Are there persons you wonder about in your town?


From → Faith

  1. Verda Cook permalink

    As a child I recall reports from Mennonite immigrants from Russia telling about edicts that people were to watch their neighbours and friends and were to report anything that was out of the ordinary or appeared suspicious. Many people, based on that, many innocent people were arrested. Today, if I saw someone doing something deliberately that would endanger (in any way), someone else I would report it. Otherwise, people have the right to privacy. In the case of this woman taking a daily route through your neighbourhood, does she walk at the same time each day? If so, take a walk, or break at the same time. If she has no smile, give her one. Do this on a daily basis and you might gain a friend. But you don’t need to know why she is walking or where she is going. If she volunteers the information during a conversation so be it, but no need to pry. We are a democratic country and people are free to move through their neighbourhoods without people asking where they are going and why. There are instances where one can become involved and help, but be careful. In my experience, as I left the grocery store one afternoon I saw a crowd gathered near the entrance door. A young Muslim woman was sitting on the curb and two security guards stood over her. I stood on the edge of the crowd and listened to the guards sharp commands to get up and go with them. She clutched a back pack which the guards obviously wanted to have. As I watched, I gathered that the young woman was being accused of shop lifting. I wondered if she had a young family she needed to feed and had no money. Perhaps she didn’t know about food banks available to her. I didn’t have that information, but on the other hand if she had taken something without paying she was breaking the law of our land. The guards told her they had called the police and that upset her. I finally stepped in. I sat on the curb beside her and told her that she should voluntarily go with the guards. I volunteered to go with her. She was crying. I spoke softly and told her I understand her fear of the police and authorities, but in our country we do not punish people with lashings, or sever limbs, nor will rape occur. We are a humane country and while they will question her she should be truthful. I then stated that when people come to this country we expect them to obey the laws of our land, just as any citizen of our country. I then put my arm around her, and she wiped her tears, got up and went voluntarily with the guards into the store. I didn’t ask her if she had done shoplifting. I didn’t probe into the situation. But I did let her know I cared. What was the outcome? I don’t know and since neither the police or the guards contacted me it is none of my business. I think we need to allow people their privacy and dignity without interfering but take advantage of helping/caring when the situation arises, but it isn’t our business as to why a person walks through our neighbourhood daily carrying a blanket.

    Verda Cook

    • Thank you for this very thoughtful response. I believe you are right. Perhaps I shouldn’t even have posted this. But if it can help me and all of us be more respectful of the right to privacy, you will have done us a service. You have shared a great story to–wow, I’m not sure I would have had that courage. Bless you and thanks for your post.

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