Have you ever had a conversation that just seems to stay in your head for years?
Earlier this week, I had a moment of reflection when I recalled very vividly a seemingly casual conversation that occurred as I went through a checkout counter several years ago.
I was traveling near Atlanta and stopped in a Wal-Mart to pick up a few items. Unlike most times when I have been to Wal-Mart, there was no line at the checkout counter. I noticed that the cashier was looking down at a book as I approached.
“What are you reading?” I inquired with a smile.
She glanced up, returned my smile and said, “My Sunday school lesson.”
“What’s it about?” I asked.
“It’s about how God tries to get our attention.”
“Tell me about that,” I encouraged.
She smiled at me brightly and then explained. “Well, first God will whisper in your ear to tell you something.
If you don’t listen, he flips your ear. If you still don’t listen, he smacks you upside the back of your head.”
I laughed at her summary.
She continued, “So, it just makes sense to listen the first time.”
I grinned as I told her, “Young lady, I think you just gave a brilliant summary of a very important lesson. I think you should teach the class.”
That conversation took all of about 45 seconds and was just the result of two people being pleasant to one another. Yet, her words have stayed with me for more than a decade.
I don’t know if it was the spontaneous sincerity between two strangers or the unexpected wisdom of her words that made the lasting impression.
It occurs to me that we should not only listen more attentively to the small, still voice of God, but to our own innate instincts as well.
As often happens, that recollection brought forth another memory of a different conversation I had with an elderly patient many years earlier.
Unfortunately, the lady had been a victim of a robbery and assault that had resulted in a personal injury. Thankfully her physical injuries were minor, but the emotional and psychological trauma of the attack were much harder to overcome.
As she told me about it, she repeatedly told me, “I had a feeling that something wasn’t right about that man. Something was telling me to protect myself, to immediately get away, but I didn’t want to be rude.”
The lady had been approached by the man in a parking lot. He had asked her for a handout. As she reluctantly reached for her purse to offer him something, he grabbed the purse, pushed her to the ground and ran away.
In this case, as in many others, the victim had a premonition that the man had evil intentions. There is something about our neurological processing that alerts us to situations that are not right.
It may be our subconscious processing of body language and posture or our instinctive awareness of the communication in other people’s eye movements. There is even research that points to an interpretation of chemical messengers of threat just as pheromones communicate arousal.
Some people are more tuned into these subtle signals than others.
In other scenarios, our instincts can help us recognize that a person is trustworthy.
Many people can attest that as they gain more experience in life they learn to appreciate and fine tune their instincts more.
The lady mentioned above certainly had finely trained instincts, but what her instincts were telling her conflicted with what she considered appropriate behavior. A lifetime of courtesy overruled a moment of ominous instinct.
I had a conversation with a law enforcement officer recently, and he was telling me of some of the calls they had investigated.
His comments can be summed up as a warning that criminals are bolder than ever, many are not afraid of the law (they also aren’t afraid of jail because they’ve been there before), and have no conscience about hurting other people.
His final comment was that crime victims often fall prey to predatory humans for one of two reasons. They simply are not paying attention to their surroundings or they fail to pay heed to their instincts to seek shelter, prepare to protect themselves, or run away.
“Generally speaking,” he said, “thugs look for easy targets.”
This is a busy season for crime, fraud, accidents and other misfortunes. Listening to your instincts may help protect you.