Julien looked at me the other day and told me that he didn’t need any NERF guns here because bad guys in New Zealand don’t have guns. And he didn’t need any to protect himself.
How in the world does he know this? And what has he been internalizing these last few years?
Clearly the new US-based school drills where kids (as young as 4, because that’s how old he was last year,) practice hiding from an active shooter have made an impact.
But how does he know, how is he able to feel, what we all feel: that we are safe here?
It is difficult to describe, but it was the very first thing that I noticed. As soon as we arrived I noticed myself a little bit less on edge, a little less worried, a little less on high alert. I noticed that when walking into public places, I wasn’t immediately glancing for the exits. I noticed that I wasn’t looking around me in public parks to see if anything felt off. I noticed that my kids could play outside by themselves and it was ok; I didn’t need to be as vigilant as I am at home.
So I’d picked up on the fact that I felt safe, but little did I know how much that word means here to so many people.
As I began getting to know people, I would ask them, what do you love about living here? What made you decide to stay (if the person had immigrated here)? And again and again I heard variations of feeling safe:
- One woman who came here from Germany told me she likes feeling like she doesn’t have to worry about terrorism.
- One woman who grew up here and is from NZ told me she loves knowing she can go for a tramp, have a lie in the tall grass, and not worry that a snake may be lying there (there are no snakes in NZ either, by the way.)
- And an American woman told me she can breath here. She just feels safer than she does back home.
Safe. It seems to be how so many people describe living here.
And so here we are. My little boy is running around barefoot with all the other barefoot kids at school, playing with legos and racecars instead of pretending to shoot “bad guys”, and in his own way he has told me that he too feels safer here.
I feel equally grateful and conflicted. And I’m trying to process both.