What I Learned from Being Robbed at Knife Point

A reflection by Lindsey

The last several months have been incredibly eventful for Sarah and me. If you’ve been following our Twitter feed, you may know that I’ve been actively looking for a job. The search has definitely had its ups and its downs. Probably the lowest moment was when I was robbed by three teenagers at knife point while walking home from a temporary job.

I’ve done temporary jobs before. Typically, those opportunities come when an organization needs an extra set of hands. Sometimes you luck out and they’re in the process of trying to fill a vacancy. Other times, organizations have a short-term project where they need support performing routine tasks. The tasks associated with temporary jobs are generally extremely repetitive in nature. But they can be a foot in the door to work at some great places as well as earn a bit of cash to help during through lean times. Temporary work is a short-term solution while looking for the next opportunity. As I’ve worked in temporary jobs, I’ve been unable to avoid feeling like a mere cog in the wheel. I don’t like the idea that any person could do what I’m doing, but even more I loathe the idea of not being able to contribute financially.

However, it doesn’t take much to have a day’s earnings at a temporary job completely erased. I was heading home after a full day at one job in a rough part of the city. Since I knew this about the location, I wasn’t carrying much. I had my ID, my subway fare card, my credit card, and a small bit of a cash. I had been working at that location for a couple of weeks. I knew there was a spot between the job site and the subway stop that could be bad news, but I was trying to keep everything in perspective while walking with purpose to and fro.

Then, my good fortune ran out.

I was nearing the end of the project. Walking from work to the subway, I noticed three teenagers hanging out at the spot I predicted could be trouble. I was too close to modify the route I was taking. I just tried to pass on through, hoping my walking with purpose would get me by. When one of the teenagers grabbed my coat and asked for my wallet, I knew I wasn’t going to be so lucky. Give me your wallet. I don’t remember another time when I’ve thanked each of my lucky stars individually and by name for not carrying a wallet. However, with each Give me your wallet, the situation escalated. At first, the teenager issued the command more forcefully, then showed a fist, and then drew a knife. With each new escalation, I felt my options shrinking and my heart skipping a few beats as I tried to strategize anew for getting out of the situation intact. When I saw the knife, I realized that I continued resistance was only going to lead to my getting beaten up so I decided to part with the few items in my pocket. After they had my wallet, they switched gears to Give me your phone. I freaked out internally at the thought of losing my phone, because my phone is such a lifeline. Somehow, I managed to summon enough strength to resist long enough so they lost interest in continuing to pursue my phone. I made haste to the subway station so I could call the police and start the process of filing a police report. The adrenaline was pumping, and I wanted to be sure that I’d attend to my safety first.

After the initial adrenaline rush, I realized that the monetary value of what I had lost that day was more than my monetary gains for the 8 hours I had spent working. A huge part of me was absolutely devastated by realizing I had lost more than I had gained from 8 hours of truly mindless activity. I mentioned the day’s events on Facebook and Twitter, hoping for nothing else but a chance to share my rotten day. I could have never predicted what happened next as, one by one, friends started to contact me.

It was incredible. Brené Brown has a TED talk about how our vulnerability creates space for others to share their vulnerability with us. Vulnerability also opens avenues for real support. Friends told me stories about various traumatic events. Some friends helped us out financially. Other friends made a point to call me periodically over the next few weeks to see how I was holding together. People’s interest in my job search surged forward, a surge that has lasted to this day. In the days that followed the robbery, I was continually amazed at how each of my friends reached out to me in different ways that were all profoundly meaningful. It meant a great deal to be able to allow others to support and care for me during that time, as I frequently find myself on the giving side of support.

Getting robbed at knife point showed me just how awesome friends can be when life deals one a rather rubbish hand. Job hunting can make a person weary. The world can seem especially heartless. Add a robbery into the mix, and one can be tempted to throw in the towel. Yet, when things seem darkest, friends are quick to hold the light.

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