If everyone else is breaking rules, why can’t I break the rules?
10pm on a Saturday night, I was walking home from the train station by myself.
My mom and brother told me the week they moved me into my apartment, “I don’t think this would be a good way to walk home at night.” But, I ignored them.
They told me I should wear a shroud, walk with a limp, trail drops of blood, and drag a dollar on a string behind me. I really should have gone with that plan…
“It’s ten PM,” I thought. “What could possibly happen at such an early hour?”
I was about halfway down the walking path (seen above) when a man passed me on a bike wearing dark clothing. I panicked a little, but he passed me and continued on down the trail. I put my head down and told myself, “Seriously, Sarah. Not EVERYONE in dark clothing is trying to rob you. He’s probably just trying to get home – like you.” I kept walking down the trail – getting closer and closer to the locked gate that attaches to my apartment complex.
I was just about 50 feet away from the safety of my gated neighborhood when he rode back towards me from the darkness. This time he was headed straight for me – not choosing to take the opposite side of the walkway. I knew something was wrong before he reached in his jacket to pull out a gun.
You have no idea how you’re going to react to something like that until it actually happens to you. My reaction was a surprise to me. I wasn’t mad. I didn’t cry. I didn’t panic.
I LITERALLY started to mother him with a look of disapproval.
I tilted my head to one side “Are you serious?” I asked with a tired look on my face.
He was serious. “Come on, man. Look at you. You’re young. You’re healthy. You’re good looking. Why do you have to do stuff like this to get by?”
He refused to answer me, but looked surprised. “Just give me your money!”
“Look, I don’t even have much with me. You really could have picked someone better to rob…” He rolled his eyes, growing visibly impatient, “What’s in your purse?!”
We briefly discussed the contents of my purse (that I had pared down to the very minimum earlier that night). He decided he still wanted to rob me, so I handed him my purse. He gestured to my phone.
“Aw! My phone? Let me keep this. You don’t need it.” He must have felt like I wasn’t taking him seriously enough because he spun the revolver and moved closer to my abdomen.
SIDENOTE: He must have known I was a dietitian. I knew exactly where the gun was pointed (my large and small intestine) and considered whether I would want to kill my love of food/eating meals that quickly. Visions of a ruptured bowel from a gun shot wound flashed through my head and my decision was made.
I gave him my phone. He quickly checked my pockets, and then he was off. He was caught, but then escaped after pursuit onto the train tracks of Philadelphia.
I didn’t cry (until three days later when I realized how scary it was). I didn’t get angry. I didn’t blame him. I would say I handled the whole experience… okay. I even attempted to forgive him so that I wouldn’t have to carry the burden of being held at gunpoint for the rest of my life.
But it was hard.
Fast Forward 2 Months…
My friend Sarah and I were driving in a district called Manayunk – a place renowned for the difficulty of finding a parking spot. We’re not having much luck…when suddenly, I see a spot on the opposite side of the street.
I consider my options and decide to do a U-turn – even though I know it’s illegal. A person does what a person has to do in order to get a good parking spot. Right?
In the midst of this maneuver, I waited for oncoming traffic to pass, but forgot to check behind me again. I pulled out to turn and a car slammed into my driver side door.
Luckily, everyone was okay. But, I was pretty upset with myself for weeks afterwards.
I kept asking myself, “What makes you feel so special, Sarah, that you can put other peoples lives in danger to break rules?”
I was thinking about this as I was riding home on my bicycle and realized that I am probably not much different than my robber from two months before. I looked at his situation and thought, “How can you be like that? You have so much going for you. Why do you need to break the rules that keep us safe?”
And, I could say the same for myself.
We could have both taken the life of another person from our decision on those two separate nights. Sure, our intention was SLIGHTLY different (not a lot different – both intentions were born out of selfishness), but the outcome could have been the same.
As it turns out, my robber and I, we’re not that different after all. And you know what? It made forgiving him a whole lot easier.
What did I learn?
It gets easier to justify selfish tendencies (like breaking traffic laws for your own benefit or robbing a girl at night for the money in her purse) when it seems like everyone else around you is doing it too.
But, it’s not okay.
I’m SURE there are things in your life that you’re able to justify with the statement, “But HE/SHE is doing it!” Don’t let yourself get away with it. I hate to bring it back to my profession, but I see this over and over with bad food choices. “But, so-and-so is doing it! It’s not fair!”
Too bad. Life isn’t always fair.
Anyone that told you otherwise was lying to you.
It’s a little kid lesson come back to be re-learned as an adult. Hopefully, you won’t have to get robbed and wreck a car in order to learn it. :-/