Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer


Posted by Dr. Vollmer on January 16, 2013

Annie, fifty-one, had her purse stolen from her office downtown. She did not lock it up, as her colleagues usually do, but she felt like she worked in a safe environment. She works for an architecture firm, and so clients come in and out, which she assumed, were honest folk. “On the one hand I want to hate humanity, but on the other hand, I know that most people are kind and generous,” Annie explains to me her perspective, as she is obviously shaken, but not flattened. “The next day,” she continues, “I got a call from an employee at Subway who said she found my purse,” and I was like wait, I was just hating the world, and now there is this really good person, a stranger, who wants to help me out. I am confused, but relieved,” she explains. “In the meantime, I cancelled all my cards, so I still feel naked,” she says, using a sexual term to describe vulnerability. “Somehow those cards protect you,” I say, going with her naked image. “Yes, if I have trouble, I can use my credit card, or my ATM card, or my AAA card or my insurance cards to help me out. Without those, if I needed help, I would have to call a family member.” Annie says, stating the obvious, but also reminding me that our world is so electronic that without those magnetic strips in hand, it is hard for us to function. “Maybe you learn who your friends are,” I say, pointing out that vulnerability could be an opportunity for closeness, an opportunity for others to show they care. “That is true. I need to remember that guy from Subway. He could have taken my purse and done all sorts of terrible things, but he wanted to help me out. He had a soul.” Annie says, marveling at the kindness of strangers, in the midst of being victimized by the unkindness of a stranger. “I know this is a major inconvenience, but it hits me in a deep place of insecurity. I know I have to be more careful, but I don’t like feeling how uncertain the world can be.” Annie says, as if she is thinking about the Sandy Hook shooting, or at least making me think of that. “Yes, when the wheels turn, when you feel clothed, you forget about the anxieties of living.” I say, highlighting how this episode jolted her out of her comfortable routine, causing her to pause and reflect on the dangers of the world, and the cruelty of others. “You saw the gamut of human nature in a short period. Both sides exist, but usually we don’t see them so close together,” I say, remarking on how evil was so quickly followed by kindness. “Yes, it has been quite a few days, but now I would like to return to denial.” Annie says, trying to end on a light and humorous note.

2 Responses to “Vulnerability”

  1. Shelly said

    Interesting. Was everything in Annie’s purse intact? One does feel extremely vulnerable when one has been robbed particularly from the act itself, secondary to the pain of having to replace everything that has been stolen. Having to rely on favors from others is also a distasteful outcome of the theft. Amazing that someone “found the purse,” and was so altruistic to return it to Annie. That act alone is enough to make me (a cynic) have faith again in humanity (even though this is a piece of fiction in this blog). Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every tragedy had a nice and happy fairy-tale ending?

    • YES! This is a story of both heart-warming kindness and sociopathic destructiveness, on a small scale, compared to what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The juxtaposition of good and evil is what drew me to write this post. I think that almost always happens. In the midst of horrible tragedy, one can see deep goodness in a few gems.

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