What Voice Shall We Listen To?

Here’s another story from Sophie’s interview that didn’t make it into the book. Sophie had been previously described as a petit white woman with blond hair and blue eyes:

I recall another story Sophie told me once before she was ill. One night she was walking to her car on a dark city path in a neighborhood with a high crime rate. Sophie, who was in her sixties at the time, grew nervous when she heard footsteps. Then she heard a voice inside her say, “Turn around and go talk to the person behind you.” Sophie turned and walked back toward a tall, young black man. As soon as she spoke to him, the fear left her. “Excuse me,” Sophie said in her high, soft voice. “I’m walking alone to my car, and I would feel so much safer if you would escort me.” Surprised, the young man agreed, and they chatted to the parking lot. As Sophie climbed into her car, she thanked the young man, who shook his head and said, “Lady, I was planning to mug you, but you were so nice to me, I couldn’t do it.” She thanked him again and said goodnight.

I love this story because it shows the difference between real wisdom and conventional wisdom. Because most white women are taught to fear black men (either by their mothers or by the stereotype-filled culture), approaching a tall black man on a dark city path is not what most sixty-year-old white women would do. But obeying the voice turned out to be much wiser than running would have been. Not only did it keep Sophie safe, it also may have helped the young man. Maybe it kept him out of jail. Maybe it prompted him to change his life. We don’t know. All we know for sure is that the young man was moved enough to admit to Sophie his original intentions. We also know that she didn’t hurt him, as people sometimes do when they are afraid. If she had heard a voice telling her to turn around and shoot the person behind her, that would have been a sign it was not God talking, since that would have contradicted several of the fruits of the Spirit.

Although this story was originally in the chapter about listening to your inner voice, it also makes me think about how our expectations of people–for good or for bad–affect them. 

2019-01-29T17:55:47+00:00July 15th, 2010|Uncategorized|


  1. Heather July 15, 2010 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    I love this story. It speaks to the power of connection. As long as we stereotype and keep each other at arm’s length (elderly white woman/prey; young black man/predator), it will be difficult to understand the consequences of our actions. When we admit our vulnerability and open ourselves up to each other, we can make true connections, begin to know each other and better understand the impact of our actions. Sophie’s laying out of her vulnerability not only sparked a connection, but encouraged the young man to lay out his own vulnerability as well, by revealing his intended actions to her.

  2. Sharon July 16, 2010 at 2:01 pm - Reply

    This is a powerful story. What came up for me, is how hard it can be for me to *trust* that inner voice… I am not sure that I would have had the courage to do what Sophie did. This is not from a sterotype "lens"…. I have worked years in inner city Emergency Rooms in Philadelphia, enough that I was recognized on the streets of those high crime neighborhoods when I made a home visit. For me, real wisdom can sometimes be the more difficult path to "see"… it is often not what I *expect*.

    I *love* what Heather has said above about *vulnerability* and connection… it resonated for me.

  3. Barbara August 1, 2010 at 1:01 pm - Reply

    I have been mugged by someone walking up behind me in this way. After that, I took a self-defense course for women dealing with street crime. Sophie did two things that they teach in these classes: 1. trust your instinct about something not being quite right. Don’ t let your desire not to offend someone put you in harm’s way. and 2. if someone is following close behind you like that, turn around and look at them and let them pass. The person is counting on being anonymous and your actions will take away that factor.

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