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A Disarming Embrace

On Monday, August 9, 1993, a 31-year-old woman, Sopehia Mardress White, burst into the hospital nursery at USC Medical Center in Los Angeles, wielding a .38 caliber handgun. She had come gunning for Elizabeth Staten, a nurse whom she accused of stealing her husband. White fired six shots, hitting Staten in the wrist and stomach. Staten fled, and White chased her into the emergency room, firing once more.

There, with blood on her clothes and a hot pistol in her hand, the attacker was met by another nurse, Joan Black, who did the unthinkable. Black walked calmly to the gun-toting woman--and hugged her. Black spoke comforting words. The assailant said she didnt have anything to live for, that Staten had stolen her family. "You're in pain," Black said. "I'm sorry, but everybody has pain in their life... I understand, and we can work it out."

As they talked, the hospital invader kept her finger on the trigger. Once she began to lift the gun as though she would shoot herself. Nurse Black just pushed her arm down and continued to hold her. At last Sopehia White gave the gun to the nurse. She was disarmed by a hug, by understanding, by compassion. Black later told an AP reporter, "I saw a sick person and had to take care of her." Jesus Christ looks upon us in a similar fashion, as persons sick and broken inside, in need of his care. And it is his embrace that disarms us.

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