Friendship: The Alternative to Guns


Amelia the Awesome is my home health aide—a job she tolerates in order to work her primary commitment:  Peace.  Peace is not a career path that pays well so,
in addition to being peaceful and caring for me, she also has a couple other
part-time jobs, to and from which she walks, which scares me to death because Amelia’s walking at night and I don’t like that one bit.

Recently she moved—no, not to safer place but to a place on the other side of a more dangerous place through which she has to walk.  And this week Amelia the Awesome told me what she’s doing.  She started by going into a neighborhood deli
and introducing herself to the people who hang out there.  “Hi, I’m Amelia.  Who are you?” she says with her winsome smile, and she begins to get acquainted, not just with the shopkeepers but also with the vagrants and hangers-on.

Amelia figures that if she gets to know the local folks then (a) they will not hurt her, and (b) they will keep an eye out for her safety.  The feasibility of the approach is based on the fact that she genuinely is interested in other people and does like to have good relationships with all.

This reminded me of Dr. Steven Wechsler, who announced one day, “People don’t sue their friends.”  This comment was vis-à-vis medical malpractice and the
best protection there from.  People don’t sue people with whom they have a friendly working relationship; they sue strangers and people who keep themselves distant and isolated.  Fact is, the greatest number of physicians who get sued are anesthesiologists.  When they are working, you are asleep so you never form any kind of friendly relationship.  Steve, on the other hand, is a warm, welcoming person whose friendships grow out of his relationships with his patients.

This is the same principle as the hostage situation:  if you are the hostage and the hostage-taker puts a bag over your head then it increases the likelihood that he will kill you.  If he leaves your head uncovered, you have a better change of surviving:  he sees you as a person, and it’s harder to kill someone you kind of know.

So Amelia is placing her safety in the hands of others by getting to know them as friends.  Amelia—I did mention it?—is committed to peace.  She is using friendship and being a good neighbor as her protection from violence.

Alternatively, she could have bought a gun.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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