When in doubt, offer chocolate!!!
My hometown of Sacramento CA feels pretty safe by comparison to other cities. However, there are times when things can get wild and tumultuous out on the streets.
A few days ago, Tristina and I heard some violent screaming coming from the front side of our apartment complex. We walked outside and witnessed a large, imposing man wearing American flag overalls. He was fiercely yelling at another person on the street.
His attire was funny, but the situation was serious. Some people ran out to see what was happening, but quickly retreated back into their homes. It was intense to say the least.
My first instinct was to focus on my breath. I felt compelled to do something, but it was a situation that could turn dangerous. To not appear as a threat, I felt like I needed to extend an offering. What do most people like when they are upset?
Then it came to me…CHOCOLATE!
I ran inside our apartment to grab some chocolate, but at first glance it didn’t appear that we had any. I kept redirecting my awareness back to my breath to stay focused and composed.
After pushing things aside in my kitchen cupboard, I found a bag of cacao nibs. Good enough! I ran back outside, and the following is how the interaction went down (since I didn’t get his name, we will just call him Flag Overalls).
Me: Hi, my name is Michael. I am sorry to interrupt. Would you like some chocolate?
(an intense stare down ensues, while the person he was screaming left the scene)
Flag Overalls: Yeah, I will take some chocolate.
(I hand him the cacao nibs and he throws them into his mouth)
Me: These are actually cacao nibs. It says here on the package that it is a plant based superfood!
Flag Overalls: Is that right?
Me: That’s right! So, how are you feeling sir?
Flag Overalls: Not good bro. I lost my job. I have been homeless for five months now. Nobody will hire me. I don’t have any skills.
Me: I am so sorry brother. That sounds really tough.
Flag Overalls: That’s right, it is really tough. It has placed a lot of pressure on me and on our relationship (the person he was screaming at).
Me: It seems like that would place a lot of pressure on anyone. Stay strong.
Flag Overalls: Thanks man, I got to go make things right.
Me: Much love man.
Flag Overalls completely changed his voice. He became calm and was able to articulate his inner experience. Our interaction seemed to help him without escalating the situation.
My biggest take away from this interaction is that a scary situation can turn into a heart-opening experience in a matter of minutes. Attention to the breath and approaching other human beings with compassion can produce powerful results. Make every interaction you have an offering, even if you don’t have cacao nibs. 😊