There was a group of people there, nearly all of whom disliked me
immediately upon sight. As they left, the last one snatched my hat off my
head and ran out the door. I quickly pursued out to the parking lot and
found myself faced with five people sitting in an extended cab pickup.
They all yelled and jeered and swore at me, telling me such things as that
I should lie down so they could run me over and that they wanted to cut
certain parts of my anatomy off.
I experienced a very strong, instinctual impulse that welled up inside me:
these people had done me an injustice and I was justifiably angry at their
ignorance and prejudice. But I was able to keep their behavior, and my own
anger, from defining my reaction. I did not physically or verbally attack,
but I did not retreat either. I did not yell and swear, but I did not
remain silent. I stood firm in the realization that I wanted to face these
people, and that I wanted my hat back, but that the opportunity to
facilitate the latter or improve the situation lay entirely in the nature
of my reaction.
In defiance of the anger and malice---including my own---that permeated
the air and which was not my ally, I simply, stubbornly, talked to my
detractors. I talked to them with a respect for their human right to act
like idiots just as I have acted idiotically at times in my life, and,
just as I will certainly do so again in the future. At one point I said to
them "Y'know you guys can run me over, but I'm out here (on this trip)
because I care about every single one of you." and this was true.
Everything changed. I had not fulfilled my expected role. I gave them back
something totally new, and highly relevant to react to and my reaction by
mere comparison suddenly made the presumption and the knee jerk hatred and
foolishness of their conduct glaringly obvious to them. We began to
talk together. Eventually, my hat was voluntarily handed back
to me and we parted ways, I believe, each the richer.