What the Brink of Disaster Teaches You

It was an ordinary day and my cousin and I decided to go for a pre-dinner walk to get some fresh air and exercise. We brought his 11-month-year-old daughter with us in a stroller. She loves going on walks with us in between her naps.

But this was no ordinary walk.

She normally is an extremely joyful and happy child, but for some strange reason, she immediately starts crying and looking at me as we start the walk. My cousin gave her some of her favorite toys, one after the other. Nothing stopped the crying.

We kept walking and looking down at her to see what could be wrong. And she must have had an intuition.

As we cross another block in Lower Pacific Heights in San Francisco, and out of nowhere, a disturbed homeless person starts approaching us, mumbling under his breath about babies and the Pentagon. It didn’t make any sense to us. We did, as we always do, we veered off into the street to attempt to avoid him.

That’s when it all started.

He immediately turned around in our direction, pulled out a 6-inch blade, and started it pacing towards us, screaming that he was going to kill us and the baby.

Our amygdala kicked in. We were now in survival mode, speed walking away block after block.

The guy kept speeding up, getting as close as 5 feet behind us.

I told my cousin, “we have to just cross the street here.” I saw two people on the other side of the street and my instinct was to quickly form a group in an effort to show him that we had strength in numbers. Yet, he was the one with a weapon in his hand, and it did not intimidate nor stop him.

We quickly told them to walk the other way because he had a blade in his hand. He picked up the pace and we kept walking and making sharp turns at different blocks in an attempt to lose him. In the midst of all of this, I decided to call the San Francisco Police Department, and fortunately, for whatever reason, this terrifying moment simply ended. The deranged man decided to keep walking straight as we turned another corner.

The 4 of us took a deep breath, and we each went into our own state of shock, panting breath after breath.

Meanwhile, I was still on the phone with the police, describing the incident, and attempting to identify this man.

He was 5’ 10”, white, slim, had a long beard, and had a torn green jacket. That’s the description I gave the officer. That’s the man who threatened to kill 4 people and my cousin’s daughter.

As we all took a deep breath, the other couple decided to walk away, and my cousin and I waited for the police to arrive.

We spent 30 minutes providing them this exact run down. We’re extremely grateful for their support and defense.

So what can I take away from this moment?

Well, the obvious is that we’re all OK. We’re all safe. I’m not religious, so I will simply say, “thank you, universe.”

But why now? Why did we experience this? Why did we experience this together?

In recent conversations with a personal coach, he had shared that everything we experience in life only has meaning when we give it a certain meaning.

I am still grappling with the meaning.

So here is what I will choose.

I choose to be grateful that we’re all safe.

I choose to continue to protect those I love.

I choose to continue to stand up for what I believe.

I choose to use every day I have to continue to serve people with love, grace, and intention.

I choose to help create a world where mental health is a priority.

I choose to give my life meaning and to love my cousin and his daughter.

I choose living over ruminating.

I choose to live with purpose.

Life is precious.

This experience happened and I choose to give a meaning of gratitude to the experience.

Every moment is precious, so live every moment with tremendous purpose.

Edward Gorbis is a Leadership coach, and the Founder of Career Meets World, a coaching platform focused on helping motivated leaders operate successfully under pressure. You can connect with him on Twitter, Instagram, or Linkedin.

Helping aspiring and first-time leaders unleash their full potential. CEO of Career Meets World.

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