When Words Outpower Weapons

file0001710910369   “Everything is gonna be all right, sweetie,” said the woman to the mentally disturbed man who moments earlier had held an AK-47-style weapon to her head.

And on this day, in this Georgia school, the woman–Antoinette Tuff–was right. Everything was okay. Because she had just disarmed a gunman, loaded with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, with kindness, compassion and love.

I‘m not sure Ghandi could have been a better peacemaker.

This story made news Aug. 20, when 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill entered the McNair Learning Center Academy with an assault weapon in hand and deadly intentions. He confronted Tuff, the bookeeper, and began barking orders at her to call the media. He was preparing for a spectacle and wanted the world in on it.  In between his angry outbursts, he ran outside where children and teachers had fled and began shooting. But he came back. Tuff didn’t run and hide, she remained calm, respectful even.

She talked kindly to him as he sat beside her, reloading his gun.

We all have tough times,” she said and listened, really listened when he talked about how he had nothing to live for and admitted he was unstable.

For all the drama, the story had a happy ending as she got him to put down his arms, lay down his body and wait for the police. As they stormed in, some of her parting words to him were, “everything is gonna be okay, sweetie.” And she told him she loved him.

That’s grace.


Grace comes in all forms and when we’re lucky, it shows up just when we need it. And if we’re really lucky, courage comes along for the ride too.

Because of her grace, her courage,  Antoinette Tuff saved her life, the life of the disturbed young man and those of countless policeman, school children and teachers. On this one day, when time stopped for nervous parents while she negotiated the fate of their children, Antoinette Tuff altered the course of history. This one grace-filled person changed the trajectory of many, many lives, many, many futures. This one person.

That’s all it takes.



person to create peace

in this world.

It starts and ends with us.

Ghandi once said, “Be the change you want to see in this world.”  Or to paraphrase, “Be the peace you want to see in this world.”

If you’re interested in more thoughts on grace, integrity and compassion, particularly at midlife,  read my book Tao Flashes.  Or visit me at www.facebook.com/taoflashes or on twitter @taoflashes.


4 thoughts on “When Words Outpower Weapons

  1. Beautiful, Lisa. What one person can do using words, not violence, to save lives. An extraordinary act from an extraordinary human being. It needed someone like you to write about it.

  2. This made me cry. We tend to forget how powerful a single person can be. In fact, I suspect that every movement, for good or for ill, began with a single person. Let us all try to use our power for good. This woman is incredible. Her composure and her love saved the lives of so many that day. She, and you, reminds me of all that is good in this world.

    • I love that thought….that every movement begins with a single person and we should try to use our power for good. Chloe, you and Sharon and Anne have used your collective power for good and have given voice to a midlife movement…one where we are feeling more respected, more heard, more valued. As for Antoinette Tuff…I am in awe.

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