“Know thyself, and God will supply the wisdom and the occasion for a victory over evil.”
– Mary Baker Eddy
There have been several times in my life when I have had the opportunity to learn more of who I am by being put in a position where I needed to respond to violence, or the threat of violence.
– Once I was waiting to pick up my son from a movie and I saw a young man sitting on top of another young man, pounding his head into the parking lot pavement. Without thinking, I walked into the ring of young spectators watching this happen, and tried to pull the attacker off his victim. I yelled, “Stop it! You’re killing him!” And one of the spectators said, “Lady, you better be careful. This guy could have a knife!” I turned on him and asked him why he was just watching, why he wasn’t trying to help. And then I put my hands on my hips and announced, “I AM A TEACHER!” – like I was some kind of super hero or something and that was going to make them all stop. The guy who was smashing the other guy’s head into the pavement sort of paused then, and looked up at me for a minute, and then went back to doing what he was doing. There were other people there – outside the circle, watching while this was happening – but at one point I remember looking up to see another parent – the mother of one of my son’s friends – had stepped into the circle with me. I remember being amazed by this and she said, “Well, I wasn’t going to let you be in here alone!” That’s always stayed with me – that this woman I didn’t know well had stepped into the circle with me to back me up. Anyway. Pretty soon the police came out and took care of it all. Afterwards I realized what I’d done was pretty foolish – but I was glad I’d done it anyway. I’d learned something about myself that night.
– I remember feeling some fear as I drove to participate in the local BLM rally last June – there’d already been some stories of guys with pistols and rifles showing up at other rallies to intimidate the protesters and I’d heard rumors that there’d be some of these guys at this rally, too. But I remember coming to terms with that as I drove there – praying for the safety of EVERYone there – protesters and gun folks alike. When I pulled into the parking lot, sure enough, there were guys with rifles slung over their shoulders and holsters with guns and assorted other black metal things tucked away in belts and pockets. I got out of the car, pulled up my mask, and made eye contact with a man with a rifle – raised my eyebrows and pointed to my “TRUTH JUSTICE KINDNESS” sign – and I remember he kind of smiled and said, “We hope so.” And in that moment – maybe when I realized these guys with the weapons were the ones who were really scared – all fear just vanished for me. The rally was a peaceful one.
– And this is a story I haven’t shared until now, but I think now is the right time. One time when I was working at a nonprofit school another teacher came out of her office – still talking to the student that was in her office as she approached me – and handed me the note you see below: “We are not SAFE.” I’m going to skip everything that happened after this, except for this one part: At one point I had a clear choice – one choice brought sure safety for myself, but left my colleague on her own (this is the choice I know my colleague wanted me to make for myself) – and the other choice brought possible danger to myself, but meant I would stay by my colleague through this experience. I took a deep breath and chose to stay with my friend. I’m so grateful I made that choice. I don’t know how I’d live with myself if I hadn’t.
And I’m happy to say that’s what it all comes down to for me now – I’m no longer so concerned about how other people feel about me – these days I’m more concerned with how I feel about MYself. I know I won’t always make the “right choice” – I still mess up majorly sometimes – but I’m learning more and more I can trust myself – and there is a certain power in that, you know?
– Karen Molenaar Terrell