Is your life crashing like billows on rocks? Did you get a bad diagnosis? Lose your spouse? Are your children safe? Are you lashed and torn, buffeted and blown? Or is your anchor set, your bowline secure? Are you safe and secure when storms howl and crush your helm?
What would you do if, on top of all that, a man in black burst into your school office firing an AK47, shouting, “This is no joke, this is real?”
Antoinette Tuff is the tough woman who prevented a school shooting in Atlanta, and she’s now out with her memoir, Prepared for a Purpose.
Her life was falling apart when the school shooter appeared. Her husband of 33 years had left her for another woman, ruining her finances. Her son was profoundly disabled, and she had just received a call from the bank that she would lose her car unless she paid $15,000. She practiced anchoring, reminding herself who she belonged to. But she was in tears, screaming inside, when the gunman burst into her school. He was white and threatening all in black. But she didn’t see color. She saw a person needing anchoring.
“Baby, you’re ours and we don’t want you to die today.”
She called 911 and kept talking to him, channeling the power of life-and-death words, she felt the Lord was giving her. “You gonna be alright, Babe. Just know that I love you.” She knew he was in pain and needed someone to show him love and not judge him. “It’s gonna be okay. I tried to commit suicide after my husband left me. My life is crashing right now, and if I can handle it, you can too.” She talked him down, averting a school shooting that day.
“When God calls your number,” she says, “make sure that your heart is open to receive what directions he gives you,”
Do you know whose you are?
For years growing up in Congo, I knew that I was a writer with a keen eye and ear for storytelling. I’d write my cousins in Canada, about the 12-foot python on our front yard, a lump the size of a hen in its belly.
We were wide-eyed and shaken. How many other snakes like this one? What if they crawled into our beds? Bit us, swallowed our little sister? But terror can change in an instant. Be ready. Right before our eyes, the neighbor came with his machete and cut that snake in half–two pieces of blood filled log–pulling out the chicken for his own pot. “It’s mine,” he said, “I counted.” In an instant, the grey day turned to mirth.
As a linguist, my father loved story-telling, languages and music–all learned at his mother’s knee. For years, he encouraged our love of listening and learning. Our village friends in Congo taught us story games and clapping rhymes. We played in many languages, and excelled in school. I returned to Canada for college and continued on in the U.S., becoming an English professor.
This week I received an email from my “big brother” Ron Goertsen at Dayspring, a development initiative in my natal southwestern Congo. He described how my village friends now lead the literacy programs from our village to the regional capital. They’re teaching hard-working girls and women who couldn’t afford school fees to read and write.
My village friends too, have discovered their calling. They are giving hundreds of women the opportunity to learn to read. They have few texts in their heart language. But they do have the Bible my father’s team translated in modern, dynamic Chokwe. They’ve also received printed material on nutrition and agricultural development, their areas of interest.
My friends have lifted their families with their knowledge, learning and teaching. And their mothers and sisters are their students, fulfilling a lifelong wish. They have practiced anchoring. God called their number, and their hearts were open to hear his direction.
Are you looking for more inspiration, a way to write your story? Join us this weekend and next for more from local authors:
March 16 – Capital City Craft Fair, Tallahassee Automobile Museum, 6800 North Monroe, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Visit us at Booth 53, Tallahassee Writers Association.
March 23 –Midtown Reader, 1123 Thomasville Road, Tallahassee. I’ll be presenting slideshows from Voices of the Apalachicola and Healing Falls.