Stepping in for the first time

"Rage, Flower Thrower" graffiti on a Jerusalem wall by the artist BanksyI was twenty years old, a young Christian, waiting to meet my friends in a Portland mall.

Four women rushing up to a fellow teenager didn’t trigger “fight!” in my head, even in a spot known for occasional gang violence.

“Maybe they’re running up to greet someone?” passed through my mind…

When the punching started it took a couple beats for me to realize what was going on. That delay cost the young woman several blows to the head.

I moved into the melee and shielded the girl with my arms and body. The aggressors backed off, then ran away.

And that was it, my first attempt at nonviolent intervention.

I stepped away from the victim, who had a bloody nose and tears running down her bruised face. I asked if she was okay, and an elderly man began comforting her. A security guard came and asked me whether I could identify the girls who had started it. We walked in the direction they had fled, but realized we wouldn’t find them and gave up.

Until that moment I had never intentionally used nonviolence to intervene in a violent situation. My inexperience led to hesitation,and she got hurt worse than she should have. But at least I did something. And because I realized that I should avoid violence towards the attackers, didn’t hit them, didn’t pile more fuel onto their own anger, there is a small possibility that they may have had reason to reconsider what they had done.

What do you think for a first try? Were there any other options that may have worked out as well or better? Have you ever entered a similar situation?

One thought on “Stepping in for the first time

  1. I see this as being somewhat connected to my reaction in “Hit it if it hurts you.” Whereas in a situation like you mentioned before, I tend to react instantly (in a bad way); in situations where someone needs help I often find myself reacting much too slowly (in a bad way). I frequently find myself thinking “Oh, if only I hadn’t been daydreaming! I should have stopped back there!”

    Liked by 1 person

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