My boyfriend and I were walking down a dark street toward an underpass in a not great section of London. By myself, I wouldn’t have gone, but he was 6’3” and well built. I figured no one would bother us. As we entered the underpass, I saw a big, heavy-set man, dressed in filthy clothes, his hair a matted tangle, drinking from a large liquor bottle. In between sips he yelled and cursed. Suddenly he aimed his bottle at the heads of a young couple who had entered the underpass from the other direction. They ran, shouting for the police.
The man whirled around and came toward us, lurching and screaming. My boyfriend shrugged off my hand, yelling at him to calm down, fists out, ready to stop him. Terrified, I pleaded, “Let’s go. He’s crazy.”
“He’s gonna hurt someone if no one stops him.”
“Please, let’s go. He could hurt you.” He moved toward the man. I tried to stop him. I begged him to stop. When he wouldn’t listen to me I told him I was leaving, that we had to go. I headed toward the entrance. My boyfriend trailed behind, still wanting to stop him, but when the man threatened to kill us, we hurried toward the entrance.
Suddenly the police arrived in the person of a small uniformed woman We stopped to see what would happen. She walked to the man, moving past us with a kind of smile on her face. In a calm, soft voice, she said to the man, “It’s okay, Sir. I’m here to help you.”
He screamed he didn’t need no help. He told her to get away from him. She paid no attention to his words or his yelling, moving gently toward him, sort of crooning kindly spoken words. He threatened to smash the bottle over her head.
We watched from a safe distance, mesmerized by the woman’s murmuring words, her lack of fear.
What happened next seemed unbelievable. She held out her hand, speaking quietly the whole time, always looking at him kindly. When she was close enough, she took the bottle from him. He actually let her take it, then collapsed against her, crying, telling her how terrible his life was. Small as she was, big as he was, she held him, stroking his back, comforting him, telling him he would get help.
Several policemen came. The policewoman walked the man toward them, continuing with the mesmerizing words of caring. We watched, stunned, that he allowed the policemen to help him into the waiting police car.
The policewoman threw the bottle into a nearby trash can. As she left, she said to us, “It’s all in a night’s work.”
She was small, calm, and unarmed. He was big and angry, waving the bottle like a weapon. She saw past his violence. Talked to his pain and suffering. Her softly spoken words disarmed him. Human to human.
Have you experienced a time when kindness and caring stopped violence? What was that like?
Stories inspired by world tales to challenge and comfort.