A few weeks ago I was getting work done and as usual had the TV on in the background to provide a bit of background noise. I can be “watching” something but with the way I tend to tune things out, it’s more like something watching me. Every now and then I’ll hear something that catches my attention and on that particular day it was the voice of Antoinette Tuff, the Georgia bookkeeper who miraculously stopped a gunman from entering a school and opening fire on the hundreds of students and staff inside the building.
Hearing Antoinette, who recently wrote a book about her ordeal, tell her story brought tears to my eyes. I mean, I often try to bypass any news channels because most of them make me cry with both the sad and happy news, but I was fixated on Tuff’s story. Her husband of thirty years had just left her, she has a son with multiple disabilities, and now a gunman who was firing at police outside of the school building was now just mere feet from her and she did something unthought of—she spoke to him. She told him about how her life wasn’t going so well so she could relate to his situation. She spoke calmly to him saying, “we’re not going to hate you,” and acted as mediator between the gunman and the 911 dispatcher. She negotiated on his behalf ensuring the police wouldn’t shoot him if he came out and surrendered—with her acting as a shield. And even as the police approached the young gunman, she told him “I just want you to know that I love you, okay? I’m proud of you.”
Can you even imagine? But what was so inspiring about her story is how she used a basic human act—an act many of us sometimes neglect to practice with our loved ones, let alone a stranger with a gun, to diffuse a situation. Living in a city like New York for example, it’s so easy to ignore people as you go along your way. It’s SO easy to curse someone out instead of telling a stranger good morning.
But more than that—how often have we ever felt defeated in our lives—like Antoinette felt before the gunman walked into the school office—and just let whatever it was eat at us? Let a breakup consume us or some setback dictate the rest of our lives?
“Push past the pain in spite of what advisaries and things you may go through in life… God has a way of showing you what is in you!” Antoinette Tuff
I was instantly inspired by her again as she spoke on CNN. Even more than when I first heard her story. Everyday people can be extraordinary—can bring about change–can move mountains. Antoinette Tuff is proof of that. And this month Coca Cola is honoring everyday people and is encouraging everyone to nominate a youth who exemplifies an attitude of Paying it Forward—just like Antoinette. If you’d like to nominate someone who pays it forward (it could even be you!), simply visit Coke.com/payitforward. There will also be a Twitter chat hosted by Steve Harvey on February 6th so be sure to stay tuned to Steve’s Twitter account to join in.
Because a great mentor can make all the difference, Coca-Cola has teamed up with Steve Harvey to give two young people the apprenticeship experience of a lifetime. Visit Coke.com/PayItForward to nominate an aspiring youth and help pay it forward to the next generation. In addition, each winning youth gets a $5,000 scholarship to assist with his or her pursuit of higher education.
Disclosure: Compensation was provided by the Coca-Cola Company via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of the Coca-Cola Company.