It was a beautiful February Tuesday afternoon as I was heading to the park…a bit cold for this southern city (40), but sunny and gorgeous. My time walking/running on the Roswell Park trail is exactly that…my time. It is the time I leave my cell phone in the car and release anything that might have earlier parked itself on my shoulders. It is the time I get to bond with Mother Earth. And, it almost always paves the way for a good mood to slip in if there wasn’t one already in place. Sometimes it’s the squirrels playing, or a baby’s smile; or the nod of a friendly passer by… sometimes it’s simply the beauty and smells of nature that brings in that good mood. However it decides to reach me, my intention is to allow it in.
But on this particular day, there was a surprising kink on my routine trip. Sometimes the divine plan is much bigger than we could have manifested on our own…we just have to remain open to follow and quickly react to our internal guidance systems. As I rounded the first curve on the trail, I could overhear a very loud, abusive argument between a male and female. It seemed almost unbelievable that a couple would be so vocal in the park. It was disturbing and immediately my heart began racing in fear. As soon as I could see them, I noticed the male was not only yelling at the female, he was also physically abusing her too. She looked very scared and powerless but screaming back all the same. He threw her down on a bench then hit her on the leg… told her to shut up amongst other things.
There might have been a time in my life when walking past this type of scene was the only option I would entertain. I have come to realize that when I don’t walk through my fears to do what I believe is the right thing; I actually feel worse because I will beat myself up about it for days, weeks, maybe much longer. And, when I am able to face my fears, I feel better about not only myself but the outcome of the action also. So, I walked directly over to the couple to intervene and try to help the woman. My body was shaking in fear as I approached them—that fear of the unknown we all feel at times… Will he turn on me? was the question most prevalent in my mind. I tried to appear grounded as I asked her “do I need to call someone??” I proceeded to repeatedly ask the gentleman to leave, flag down passerby’s until someone called 911 from their cell phone, and tried to comfort and energetically be a pillar for her. It was amazing to me the amount of people walking by that intentionally distanced themselves from the scene….full of fear to get involved in any way.
As it turned out, the argument was staged by ABC’s news program, Primetime Live. They were doing a follow-up segment to a previous show titled “What Would You Do?” Ironically, I had actually watched the first show and walked away with knowledge regarding what to do when you come upon a case of domestic abuse. Sometimes you never know what you have retained in your consciousness until in the heat of the moment. Apparently, I somehow remembered three tips: 1) Get eye contact w/the abuser; 2) Call 911, 3) Don’t leave—stand firm until the police arrive.
Primetime reported I stayed with the couple for four minutes. It felt like forty. I will say that each moment I grew more confident I was safe. I guess at some level, we instinctively know that we are in the greatest potential danger the moment you step through your fear, but I got a feeling after standing there a bit that he wasn’t going to harm me.
When the crew jumped out of the vans my heart began racing with fear in a new way… I was going to be interviewed for a national television show. It was obvious the show was going to highlight racism based on the line of questioning to myself and the couple I had recruited to call 911, who were being interviewed simultaneously. I was surprised, then upset about the line of questioning as it had never occurred to me to not stop and help the woman based on her appearance. I worried about how ABC would twist things so it would be ‘newsworthy’. My personal world is not full of racism, though certainly I realize it is unfortunately prevalent in our world.
What I didn’t realize that day was that this experience would change me and broaden my viewpoints on many levels. Even before the show aired on 3/23/06, my “list” had already begun taking shape as I was consistently surprised by the reactions of my friends, relatives, and colleagues/clients after I shared the incident with them. I didn’t expect to learn so much through my conversations with how others reacted to hearing about my experience….let alone what they thought they might or might not have done in the same situation. After the show aired, I received dozens of emails and phone calls… some from grade school friends, classmates, clients and strangers expressing how just seeing an experience like that on TV had a positive effect on their lives… or some of them telling me I was nuts to have intervened.
What I learned:
1. People you thought you knew (where they stood on a particular issue…aka racism) can surprise you with spontaneous reactions that tell you they might just be saying what they think people want to hear… but feel differently inside.
2. When people begin to justify why they would or wouldn’t follow their internal guidance systems, they would probably feel better about themselves if they had pushed themselves to walk through their fear.
3. There truly are no such things as coincidences. We are always in the right and perfect place to learn what we most need to learn and move on to better experiences.
4. That even the smallest of brave acts can actually bring a level of healing to people who need it even if they are simply watching or hearing about the incident. Those who have been abused would like to believe there would be someone that would save them in ways no one has in the past and this makes them feel stronger. Even abusers can have aha moments by seeing someone else’s experience.
5. The fastest way to make a stand for peace in our world is to open a department of peace in your own heart… and feed it daily.
6. When someone actually verbalizes the sentence “I’m not prejudice (or racist)” they probably are and do not consciously realize it or want to acknowledge it.
7. When you spontaneously follow your perfectly wired internal guidance system, you will instinctively know the right and perfect course of action if you have faith. I once saw a saying: “Be bold and mighty forces will come to your aid”. I believe this to be true.
8. That any word/title used to negatively describe and stereotype any mass of people is just the same as saying the awful ‘n’ word. (i.e. Redneck)
9. It takes great courage for people to be open minded and willing to think and speak differently than their peers and family.
10. Unfortunately fear still guides most people to make choices that keep them from reaching their greatest potential and feel better about themselves.
11. Not all media chooses to present a negative slant. Sometimes they make a conscious choice to show the best in people because it has the potential to help others.
12. You never know when your next God job will present itself. One has to remain an open channel to taking steps even when you can’t see the outcome. It’s not about the individual getting praise, it’s about being a small part of a bigger message that may have an audience waiting and needing to hear it.
Many have asked me if I would have done the same thing if I had children, or if I hadn’t seen the first show in the series…. or if he’d had a gun, etc. There is no way for me to know how I would answer those questions as those situations did not happen. I know I would have trusted my instincts to guide me to do the right thing for me. And ‘the right thing’ for each person can be different.
Someone asked me what I was most proud of through having this experience. My answer was that I am most proud of having confirmation at being at a time in my life when my fear of NOT doing the right thing is greater than my fear of doing the right thing.
James Twyman said it well when I heard him say at one of his lectures, “We are all one race: human.” May this experience and the media highlighting it help more people find the courage to think differently and raise awareness within many.
Two weeks before I wrote this article, I put a note in my manifestation box that said: I am on the Oprah Show… After I wrote this article, the producers of PrimeTime Live invited me to be on their best of ’06 show reading parts of the article….then a year later, Oprah invited John Quinones on her show to discuss the show and in turn, he invited me (and the actress that played the victim) to be on Oprah so she could talk to me about why I did what I did. It was very surreal! I always thought I would be on Oprah for my work, but it turns out this was a more important message to get out there.