Except for accepting that I could depart this at any moment, I’ve lived a relatively good life. Quiet days of work rolled into quiet nights and quiet hours of sleep. I’ve traveled many parts of the world; some parts were I while others are splendorous. Only two occasions where I ever experienced danger: Once in South Africa and another time in Atlanta. Still, up through last week, I never believed an actual physical assault would visit me.
As Longfellow would write:
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life, some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
Longfellow’s 1842 poem basically means everyone will experience difficulty and heartache at some point. The “day” is a metaphor for “life.” So, when I reflect back upon the black four-door Ford pick-up that pulled alongside my parked car, I thought little of it. Moments later, I was targeted simply because I carried a cane as the assaulter perceived I was on ‘public assistance,’ “sucking money” from society.
Looking back, I presume that somehow the offender thought beating the crap out me would somehow motivate me to get a job. Turns out he was wrong. I have a job. I am actively employed.
The battle lasted less than twenty seconds, for since my back was sore, I carried a self-defense cane. After listening to how I was a leech on society, a quick flick to the offender’s left shin left him crumpled in pain. He quickly stumbled back to his truck and sped away.
The police report was ‘matter of fact.’ Comments such as, “you were lucky,” to I “was smart,” should have run. My mother gasped. Colleagues momentarily “wowed.” And the world quickly moved on. I sat. Alone. In thought.
The rate of nonfatal assaults on American men 60 and older increased by 75.4% between 2002 and 2016, a new government report estimates. For women, the assault rate increased by 35.4% between 2007 and 2016. Researchers from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlighted the need to strengthen violence prevention among older adults.
There’s a small, tiny part of me that wants to meet this fellow again – not for bridging wounds, but rather, to simply wreck his day. However, as a Buddhist, I use several problem-solving or approach coping strategies. They center on direct action and planning. These are directed at solving a problem and mitigating sources of distress. These coping strategies include:
- Meditation: For the development of love and compassion;
- Self-Help: Collecting information concerning the justice system, community resources, common experiences amongst victims of violent crime, and so on; and
- Activities towards empowerment: This includes taking self-defense classes to reduce the possibility of future victimization; activism, such as sharing one’s experience with others to advocate for the protection of future victims.
Since becoming a Buddhist, I have tried to have a deep commitment to love and compassion – it is a commitment to nonviolence. In reality, should I ever meet my attacker again, I will borrow the Dali Lama:
I am reminded that all of us are basically alike. Therefore, I neither speak with a feeling of anger nor hatred. Yet, as a member of the world’s community, I recognize how dependent we are in one another. The injuries you wished to cause would not have fed one person, would not have given a home to a homeless man or provide shelter from a Winter wind. Your act wouldn’t have extinguished the level of hope within me, for I have crucified myself far worse than you ever could have achieved. Simply put, I ask only to walk and understand your pain.
My attacker claimed I was weak. He sees not the living water within. What is more yielding than water? If you beat a pail of water, can you destroy it? The pail, maybe yes. Yet the water escapes. Over time, water (love) wears upon the strongest – few can withstand its strength.
So, I am water … that which is both elusive and stronger.