I live with the fear that all raccoons have rabies. Or distemper. Or cooties and other germs. They’re cute, but I avoid them.

This despite having a childhood friend who had one as a pet. I used to cuddle “Ricky,” until he hit raccoon puberty. One day, Ricky left and he didn’t come back, listening to the call of the wild, instead of my friend at the back door.

Then I grew up and fear set in.

It is just one of many fears I’ve accumulated since I became a parent. Another item on the list: Don’t cross the street, Don’t talk to strangers, Don’t stay out after dark.

This morning, I’m on Facebook and I see a photo of my nephew and he’s hand-feeding wild raccoons that have been foraging in his garbage.

My nephew’s young family looks on in wonder as the tiny paw reaches out to accept the treat. His wife squats and gives the thirsty raccoon a drink from a water bottle.

They call their visitors “Trash Pandas.”

My nephew is trying to break the bonds of fear, encouraging his children to push limits, find their own boundaries, despite the warnings of a worried grandmother and aunties.

Is he brave? Is he foolish?

Probably a bit of both, but at least he’s not allowing fear and anxiety paralyze him.

Why did I allow myself to fear raccoons, worried that they all have rabies?

When did I stop wanting to be with the strange and wild things?

I want a future where fear doesn’t stop me from being brave. From being foolish. It may be a short future, but it will be more exciting.

Are you afraid?

Were you once a brave and foolish child, staying outside after dark, running in the night with your new friends, crossing the streets without looking during a game of freeze tag?

Are you still frozen?

Don’t Let Fear Paralyze You!