In the neighbourhood of Fechenheim, in Frankfurt, Germany, there is a famous and unexpectedly popular resident named Jenny. She’s an older Arabian mare. Yes, a horse, and she is known for taking herself on walks through her neighbourhood, by herself, daily, for the past 14 years.
Jenny’s story began when her owner, a 79-year-old man, was unable to ride her. So, he decided to simply let her out to walk the same path she had known for years. Taking the same route, and passing the same homes and neighbours she has always known, has made her a fixture in the community. Residents say that she simply clops along on the same path, stopping to greet and receive a pat from her neighbours as she gets her daily exercise. She is said to walk her route eight times a day and return for lunch.
Instead of being angry at having a horse on the loose, this neighbourhood has welcomed Jenny as a fixture, even cleaning up after her and protecting her. The trolly that rides through town slows down for her, and even the police keep a caring eye over her movement. In fact, in 14 years they’ve never had a problem with her walking her route through the community. The local vet reports publicly about her health and assures the community that she is a friendly and relaxed horse. Jenny has a tag on her collar which reads, “I’m called Jenny, not a runaway, just taking a walk. Thanks.”
And just like that, the neighbourhood of Fechenheim has found a celebrity in their midst. Instead of seeing her as a danger, or a threat, or a bylaw issue worthy of angry protest, the community sees Jenny as a gift.
Others have noticed too. One commenter wrote, “What a great town that allows this to happen,” and another opined, “They need a Jenny in every town!” While some ponies are not likely to behave as gently as Jenny does, it does make us wonder if there are other unexpected celebrities on our midst? If this community did not have the grace or imagination to even consider a friendly self-walking horse in their community, they would have missed out on the joy that Jenny brings.
How do we see the “Jenny’s” in our community and city of Chestermere? In our rush to make our community orderly and predictable, how do we make margin for the quirky characters to shine through and become a celebrated part of our neighbourhood? As a boy I recall that my great uncle had a friend who rode around on a big tricycle. He had some challenges in his life and behaviours that would have otherwise made me nervous around him. But my great uncle always invited him over to sit on the porch with us, even if we could not understand what he was saying. My uncle showed me that this friend was different, but someone worth knowing. In fact, he soon became a celebrity to me. I looked forward to spending time with him. He was a gift to the community.
I hope Chestermere will be the kind of city that has the grace and imagination to see something, or someone, for the special contribution they bring. May we be the people who celebrate, and protect, those that make this community unique, quirky, and loveable.