Recently I read Stranger Danger at the HS Post about teaching children personal safety preparedness. Talking to our children about emergency situations and potential threats to their safety is not an easy thing to do, but, in my opinion, necessary. Their post made me think, and I decided to go back over some self-defence strategies with the boys.
Last weekend, I had to put a few of my own self-defence strategies into action. Before I tell the story, let me assure you that I am okay. I was not attacked but had good reason to fear I was about to be. I had to maneuver quickly to remove myself from a threatening situation.
I went to my local shopping center on Saturday, late in the afternoon, while it was still daylight. I parked in the first available spot I found, about 1/3 of the way down a fairly large and crowded lot. I put the car in park, turned off the ignition, and put my keys in my right pocket. That is my habit because I tend to be absent-minded and lose them or lock them in the car otherwise. Then, I reached over to the passenger seat, picked up my shopping list, and turned to open my door. I was thinking about getting in the store and back out quickly and not considering my surroundings.
As I stepped out of the car, a very tall, very large man was standing directly over me. His proximity startled me and put me on guard. He asked me if I could give him "a light". I glanced down at his hand and saw an already-lit cigarette. I quickly slammed my car door shut and moved to the middle of the parking lot where I would be highly visible to others, all the while securing my purse between my arm and side and grabbing my cell phone from my left pocket with my left hand and my pepper spray (attached to my key ring and in my right pocket) with my right hand.
He followed me and berated me for assuming that he was up to no good. He accused me of racial profiling, but I refused even to give him a glance. I was tempted to explain to him that I was scared because of his proximity, his size, and his bogus request. Furthermore, I wanted to tell him that if had he made the same request from a few feet away and without a lit cigarrette in hand, I would have kindly informed him of my non-smoker status and moved on. I was not going to answer him, though, and potentially provoke him.
I just kept watching him out of my peripheral, walking toward the door as fast as I could. He continued to follow me, now asking for personal information like my age. I did not answer and kept my finger on the pepper spray trigger, ready to fire should he so much as move a finger toward me.
After I had walked about five paces, he turned and wandered back through the parking lot. Once I was safely inside the shopping center, I spoke to the store manager who promptly called the police. Then I called Michael who came to escort me home.
I feel certain that had I looked in my purse for a lighter the man would have grabbed the purse from me. It is possible that had I yielded to his fear tactics that he would have attacked me. I cannot know any of these things for certain but I do give thanks to God for His protection over me and my property. I am even more thankful that the boys were at home with Michael. I can say that my first line of defense was prayer- the Nehemiah 2, short, quick, and to-the-point type of prayer. God heard my cry for help and protected me.
I also believe that preparedness was a means that God used for my protection. I was very thankful in that moment for both my pepper spray and my cell phone. Even though I did not have to use either, they were in specific places where I could easily access them. I did not have to think but only react. I also have 911 saved as memory 9, so I only have to press one button in case of an emergency.
I don't think I would have opened my purse for a lighter (since I don't have one) but I am thankful that I saw the lit cigarrette anyway. I believe God alerted me to the danger and simultaneously gave me the calm to get out of harm's way. (Though you should have seen me once in the store. I walked past what I needed to buy five times before I saw it on the shelf!)
This encounter has prompted us to evaluate some of our safety procedures/precautions. We don't want to fall into the trap of "what-if's". God is sovereign. He ordained my encounter with the man in the parking lot and wisely governs all things. He has been my protector all my days and will continue to keep me for all eternity.
We know, however, that the Lord can use our preparedness for our benefit and we are thinking about how well we have prepared ourselves, and more importantly, the boys, for emergency situations.
What are some precautions you take? How do you prepare yourself and your children for emergencies? Please feel free to share.