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  • Elvy Howard

Overcoming Fear

This social media stuff scares the crap out of me, but I’ve been scared before. As the first

female service rep for Pitney Bowes, I was used to feeling awkward, but there were two facilities.

I was terrified to enter: the Federal Penitentiary on Route Ten and the Salvation Army

Warehouse on Broad Street in Richmond.

The guard the penitentiary assigned me looked like, I kid you not, Barney Fife. My

thoughts screamed, I’m gonna get raped, over and over as we walked by hunky-looking, muscled guys not even behind bars.

I was in my thirties then, busy as hell with two children, two dogs, a husband who

traveled for work, and parents who gave me nothing but grief and an occasional helping hand with the kids. It took a while to discover I’d never met such a group of gentlemen as the ones in that Federal Pen. I’d never felt so appreciated. I was surrounded by quiet kindness every time I visited to fix one of the machines they used to price goods in their canteen.

The Salvation Army warehouse was filled with, I knew, old alcoholics, junkies drying out,

and all sorts of riff-raff. Nothing like the dignified denizens of the Federal Penitentiary, and I

dreaded my first call from them.

Wrong again. I became good friends with the foreman and a lot of the guys who stuck

around. They loved to tease and joke and were lots of fun. They helped me carry my cases of

parts and tools to the car and kept aside things like CDs because I loved music or, for my

daughter, the spangled costumes donated by a dance company. She and her friends had hours

of fun playing dress-up with them for years afterward.

I realized the places I feared the most were the ones that gave me the most in terms of

kindness, support, and appreciation when I needed it the most. And they never asked for a thing

back. No one ever hit on me or even made an inappropriate comment. I’m sorry every woman

doesn’t experience this, and I’m glad as hell I did.

So here’s to scary things (gulp).

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