I used to have an office in a strip shopping center. The outside was barren, so I placed a flower-filled whiskey barrel by the front door. It welcomed clients and softened the look of the otherwise stark entrance.
Unfortunately, the plants vanished. I would replant, but after a few days, they would be gone. The plant thief took them one by one, as if by disappearing slowly, I wouldn’t notice. The plants were perfect for the front door, but I was unwilling to keep replacing the plants. How could I discourage the plant bandit?
My intuition buzzed with the perfect answer. I printed out a small note and placed it prominently in the glass window behind the planter. The note read, “These are planted in honor of my beloved Aunt Lima, who passed away recently.” It worked. There were never any more plants taken. I started having fun and honored my friends’ and clients’ deceased relatives. “These plants are planted to honor the beloved mother of Jane Stiles.” I changed the dedication sign every few weeks and my friends and clients felt comforted as they passed by the planter. I used real names for the deceased and loved ones. It felt right to be straight and to make this more than a ploy to fool the plant snatcher. The process eventually moved from being a solution to a problem, to a sacred act of honoring others.
My office was in an isolated area, so I tried to leave my office at night with my last client. One evening, when I had stayed late to do paperwork, there were several teenagers hanging around the front exit. None of them looked like the girl next door. They numbered six, so I waited for them to leave, but the night wore on, they remained near the door, and I was ready to go home. My intuition hummed. When I exited, I greeted them, “I am so glad you are here. It is scary to come outside alone at night. Will you watch and make sure I get to my car safely.” The Hell’s Angel’s lookalikes smiled and collectively responded, “Yes ma’am. We will take care of you.” I felt safe and protected as I slid into my car. I waved goodbye to my newfound heroes.
Once again my intuition served me. I’m not sure if I was in danger or not--maybe the kids were safe, but I didn’t feel safe, and the creative solution released me from my bondage. In another similar incident, my daughter and I delivered a carload of Christmas presents to the projects. We drove into the impoverished area in my late model El Dorado Cadillac, which was fashionable at the time, and parked in front of Miss Betty’s apartment building. I felt like a target; we didn’t fit in. What had I been thinking, going alone with my young daughter? There was what looked to be a gang at the end of the street, and again my intuition provided a quick reaction. I got out of my car and asked if the boys knew Miss Betty Smith. One of the boys responded affirmatively and I asked if he knew where she lived. He did. I told the boys I had a car full of presents for Miss Smith and said, “This a too much stuff for us to take alone. Will you please help us deliver these presents to Miss Betty?” So the Crips*, my daughter, and I headed to Miss Betty’s place and made her day. Again a wonderful solution.
My daughter once wrote a paper on incidents that formed her values. She included that day as a turning point. Her recollection was not about feeling afraid; she was touched first-hand by the kind of poverty she witnessed. That day she decided she would always help when she could, and she did. I watched her grow into a compassionate woman who spent years in a profession helping underprivileged populations.
There are times when we are faced with real and imagined danger. Rather than freak out or being frightened, looking for creative solutions can rectify an otherwise unpleasant situation or even help us avoid a potentially dangerous one. We won’t always be able to come out of every situation unscathed, but when we live with an expectancy that there is always a better, easier, and safer way to confront any situation, we are less apt to trip ourselves up when faced with a potentially bad one. It only takes a few seconds to check in with our intuition, and I’ve found that when I do, it always makes my life EZier and EZier. I hope you are never faced with these kinds of choices, but I’m sure if you are, you will find that holding back the fear and making friends of your supposed enemies will make your life EZier and EZier too.
*Name of a notorious street gang. These weren’t really the Crips; I made that up.