Lim: Safe

Wide Awake

A friend is in a quandary. Her daughter wants to go on a study program in Europe. Should she let her go? She asks my opinion. I tell her that letting her daughter go will do her a world of good. But is Europe a safe place, she asks.

Now that is a difficult question to answer. No place is safe or at least, completely safe—the kind of safe every mother wants every place to be when her children are away from her, where fear and worry need not reside in her brain permanently.

Europe is known as the hotbed of terrorism. But to be fair, terrorism is a global threat, not just a European threat. And there are all kinds of dangers—not just terrorism. And danger lurks everywhere—not just in places away from home.

Let’s talk about home. Would you consider Cebu safe? I’m sure Cebuanos would readily say yes.

But do you actually feel safe walking down our streets at midnight? Or at any time of the day for that matter, at any place in the city? Our city is plagued by petty crime 24/7. It is also marked by murders and armed robberies—not daily occurrences but not exactly uncommon incidents, either.

Would you consider a place safe when daily crime is the norm?

I’ve been to many places in the world and I always ask locals upon arrival, “Is it safe to walk around? Even at night? Alone?” Almost always, the answer is yes. Of course, I’ve been to places too where it is definitely NOT safe to walk around but most of the time, the danger came from the wildlife.

I have stayed in places in Africa where I had to be escorted to my tent to retire every night, escorted back to the dining hall for breakfast every morning and sternly warned that nocturnal wanderings could prove fatal. I didn’t need to be told twice.

The reality is that danger lurks everywhere. It can come from the wildlife but it can also come from the politically restless, the extremist, the militant, the mentally ill, the disease- infected and the criminal mind. And who has control over natural disasters?

Anything can happen anytime, anywhere.

It doesn’t matter whether you choose to stay home or travel the world—you can’t avoid danger. The possibility of harm is ever-present. But more harm can actually come to you when you allow your fears to paralyze you. To live in fear, I think, is the greatest tragedy of all time.

Is Europe a safe place to visit? It’s not completely safe but what place is? At some point in our lives, we need to accept that so many things we worry about, we actually have no control over. We need to take calculated risks daily. The rest, we leave to God.

I caused my parents many sleepless nights. To this day, however, I am eternally grateful to them for having the courage to let me go. It can’t have been easy. And they must have prayed a lot. Every day, I thank God for keeping me safe.


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