Stories of Peace and Justice: It Really Works

by Lynn Miller, who with Linda, his wife, volunteered with MVS in the East Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago.

Well, it finally happened.

Linda and I were held up at gun-point as we were walking to the church. Just before we got there a guy came to us, pointed a gun at me, and said, “Give me your money or I’ll shoot.”

Now we had been warned that this might happen in this neighborhood, and I had practiced a number of ways to respond non-violently. I had practiced some great “alternative responses” like, “wow, neat gun. What caliber is it? How about selling it to me?” Or, “I must tell you, at this moment I am wearing boxer shorts, and I know how to use them!” But this happened so fast I didn’t have time to think of any of them.

What I did do was tell him that I didn’t have any money, but that if he would come with us to the church we would try to find something for him. He shouted again for me to give him “the money,” and I repeated that I didn’t have any but we could find something for him at the church.

Then Linda told him that we needed to go visit a woman whose mother had just died, and we both turned and started to walk down the narrow path that led to the back of the church. Half way there, I turned back and said, “Come on,” and motioned for him to follow us. But he just stood there a minute, and then turned and ran away.

Most people here have since told us that we were either “lucky” or “crazy,” and advised that we should carry a roll of bills just for this occasion, to be a “better victim.”

But I think that giving the assailant an invitation that has his needs in mind is what made “it” work. So now I am practicing something different for these occasions. Instead of responses that are self-protecting and non-violent, now I am practicing responses that seek good for my assailant. For non-violent “self-defense” is still self-defense. And the work of Jesus is to find good for the other.


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