Some nights are uneventful. You finish dinner, send out a few emails, turn a few pages in your novel and then turn out the light. For me this night was not one of them.

I recently had the opportunity to work with an excellent company doing ethnographic research in Atlanta. On one of our longer research days I drove back in my rented Chevy Spark to our AirBnB in East Nashville. After making a few calls I got out to pull my backpack from the back passenger seat.

Just then I felt someone grab me from behind, and something quite cold against my back. It was at that point that my instincts took over and I immediately turned around swinging. None of the blows made their mark however, as my nimble foe was less interested in a brawl and more interested in what I had in my back pocket.

“Give me your cell phone and your wallet or I’ll shoot you” – He said in a hushed voice as he clutched onto something below his waist. Thinking I could intimidate him out of it I began walking toward him as he continued to repeat his catchphrase. He continued backing out of arm’s reach as I continued walking forward. Finally he pulled the gun, and things got real.

This is the point of the story where I will stop you. Because at this point it felt for me like time had slowed to a halt. I quickly thought about all the things in my life that had led up to this point. All the things I have to be grateful for. All the things that I worry about, which, illuminated by staring down the barrel of a gun, just don’t seem to have the gravity they used to. It was at this moment that I had the most beautiful sense of clarity in my life.

Looking past the barrel and into the eyes of my assailant, the decision became quite easy. I pulled my wallet and cell phone out and threw them on the sidewalk. One-hundred dollars and a scratched iPhone 5 was a small price to pay for the gift of perspective I had just been given.