It's tough to watch the news. It feels like there's no escape from the violence and tragedy, and you can't help but wish you could do something, big or small, to spread a little light and make the world a better place. Sometimes, when you least expect it, the world presents an ordinary person with the chance to step up and be a hero.
When Antoinette Tuff got out of bed on Tuesday, August 20, she couldn't have predicted that she would be responsible for potentially saving the lives of hundreds of innocent children. Antoinette didn't have a lot in common with Chuck Norris, or Bruce Lee, or Ironman. She wasn't a warrior or a superhero, just a regular woman who had been through her share of personal hardships. But she used the tools she had at her disposal, a kind heart, a cool head and a lot of faith and compassion to turn a potentially tragic situation around.
On Tuesday, August 20, Michael Brandon Hill slipped inside the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy dressed in black and armed with an AK-47. Hill, who had stopped taking his medication and claimed he had nothing to live for, barricaded himself inside the elementary school, where he was stopped from doing the unthinkable by the amazing calm and compassion of one of his hostages, the school bookkeeper, Antoinette Tuff.
Although terrified, Tuff shared her own hardships with her captor, even telling him how she had been tempted to take her own life when her husband had left her the year before. She spoke to Hill with kindness and respect -- assuring the gunman that "we're not going to hurt you" and taking inspiration from the words of her pastor, encouraged him to anchor himself to the Lord. Miraculously, Tuff was able to get the gunman to surrender, and even communicated his apology to police over the school loudspeaker.
In an amazing act of bravery and compassion, Tuff offered to act as Hill's human shield, to walk outside the school with him so police wouldn't shoot. She even told him she loved him, cared about him and was proud of him as he began to stand down.
Thanks to Antoinette Tuff, there were no injuries to the 870 children inside the building, school staff, police or even the 20-year-old gunman himself, and the nation isn't mourning another Newtown.
You never know when the chance will come to make a heroic difference in the lives of others. Here's how to be ready:
Raise your consciousness and live in the light. As Gandhi said, we must be the change we want to see. Despite Antoinette Tuff's own personal challenges, she was grounded in her faith, and when she had the opportunity, was ready to shine her own light and make a difference in the lives of others. As you reach higher states of awareness, you have the capacity for more compassion, more love and more willingness to help those who are still living in darkness.
It's important that we keep ourselves healthy -- both mentally and physically. An unhealthy body, brought about by abusing alcohol and drugs, not getting enough sleep, or poor nutrition can make us vulnerable to negative energy. Keeping a healthy mind is also critical. You are what you eat, but you're also what you watch and read. Be careful of exposing yourself to evil and violence, whether through movies, books or online. Spend time working on emotional issues and if you are suffering from a mental illness, be sure that you take the necessary steps to manage it, just like any other illness.
You never know when your chance will come, so be ready. There is plenty of evil and darkness in the world -- and we all have some inside of us. But if we learn to conquer our own demons and recognize darkness in others, we can be there for others when we're needed with a word of encouragement or compassion. By seeking our own enlightenment, we can enlighten others.
Antoinette Huff didn't set out on the morning of August 20 planning to do something heroic. But because of her strength and light, she saved lives and inspired people around the world by her actions. On that day, she truly was the change that we all want to see in the world.
Recognizing darkness in ourselves, and others, and learning how to conquer it and live a light filled existence is the topic of my new book Entangled in Darkness: Seeking the Light.