A couple of days ago I was listening to Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme when I heard a quite remarkable piece from the USA. When I tried to follow it up on the internet afterwards it took me some time to dig it out, because this was a GOOD news story and they very seldom see the light of day.
It was the story of how a school clerk in Decatur near Atlanta, Georgia talked down a man who came to the school with an AK-47 so that no one got shot- including the gunman. The police were talking to her on the phone all the way through the ordeal so we were able to listen to what happened. You can hear this on the BBC website at www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-23811515 although when I listened again it didn’t seem to be the full recording that I heard on the radio.
The woman showed incredible compassion to the gunman, recognising that he needed help. She reassured him, told him she would help him so that the police didn’t shoot him and told him that everyone makes mistakes, but they could be fixed.
At the end of the recording she broke down and said how terrified she had been, although she had sounded so calm. I am always telling people that they have inner reserves and strengths that they can call on in times of stress and this incident demonstrates that so profoundly. But it was very clear that she was moved by compassion for a confused, distressed fellow human being who urgently needed help and was driven to a desperate act.
There are many famous quotations about how ‘courage is not the absence of fear’ but I feel that this incident is best summed up by this phrase attributed to Lao Tzu:
From caring comes courage