It’s easy to think we live in a hate-filled world and as individuals we are powerless to influence what happens to us.
Here is a story I like to share with my clients and workshop participants. It comes from a 2007 article written by Alison Klein, a staff writer with the Washington Post.
“A grand feast of marinated steaks and jumbo shrimp was winding down, and a group of friends was sitting on the back patio of a Capitol Hill home, sipping red wine. Suddenly, a hooded man slid in through an open gate and put the barrel of a handgun to the head of a 14-year-old guest.
"Give me your money, or I'll start shooting," he demanded…
The five other guests, including the girls' parents, froze -- and then one spoke.
"We were just finishing dinner," Cristina "Cha Cha" Rowan, 43, blurted out. "Why don't you have a glass of wine with us?"
The intruder took a sip of their Chateau Malescot St-Exupéry and said, "Damn, that's good wine."
The girl's father, Michael Rabdau, 51, who described the harrowing evening in an interview, told the intruder, described as being in his 20s, to take the whole glass. Rowan offered him the bottle. The would-be robber, his hood now down, took another sip and had a bite of Camembert cheese that was on the table.
Then he tucked the gun into the pocket of his nylon sweatpants.
"I think I may have come to the wrong house," he said, looking around the patio of the home in the 1300 block of Constitution Avenue NE.
"I'm sorry," he told the group. "Can I get a hug?"
Rowan, who lives in Falls Church and works part time at her children's school, stood up and wrapped her arms around him. Then it was Rabdau's turn. Then his wife's. The other two guests complied.
"That's really good wine," the man said, taking another sip. He had a final request: "Can we have a group hug?"
The five adults surrounded him, arms out.
With that, the man walked out with a crystal wine glass in hand, filled with Chateau Malescot. No one was hurt, and nothing was stolen…
Rabdau said he hasn't been able to figure out what happened.
"I was definitely expecting there would be some kind of casualty," Rabdau said this week. "He was very aggressive at first; then it turned into a love fest. I don't know what it was."…
"There was this degree of disbelief and terror at the same time," Rabdau said. "Then it miraculously just changed. His whole emotional tone turned -- like, we're one big happy family now. I thought: Was it the wine? Was it the cheese?"…
In the alley behind the home, investigators found the intruder's empty crystal wine glass on the ground, unbroken.”
So what caused the gate-crasher to have a change of heart?
Psychologically, I believe Christina was the miracle maker.
When Christina courageously blurted out “why don’t you have a glass of wine with us?” she reframed the situation in a way which took the intruder completely by surprise and caused him to question and change his behavior.
What would you so if you were confronted with a similar threat?