Out in the Field: Photojournalist Finds Grace After Someone Spits on Him

It was a hot, summer day as I did my photography work for the station. I arrived at the station in good spirits, ready to see what was in store for my day. My reporter and I were told to go cover breaking news of a doctor’s office being shut down because of some illegal activity. I did not think for a moment that I was going to have a rough day because I try to be positive no matter what situation.

As we approached the scene of the doctor’s office, there was a lot of activity going on. A lot of angry patients were standing in a line outside the office, frustrated because they could not get their medicine. Law enforcement personnel were gathering evidence at the scene, and of course, the media was there trying to gather information.

I got out of the news car, set up my gear, and began recording video of the scene for the newscast. For the most part on shoots, I scope out the scene just to know where things are in case something happens. Everything was going fine until this older, white handicapped patient confronted me about recording video of the patients. I was on public property, minding my business and doing my job. As I was moving around, shooting different angles of the scene, I heard her scream, “Don’t put this on television!” Then, she did the unthinkable.

She spit at me.

At that very moment, I wanted to react in a way that probably would have cost me my job.  But I had to think of so many things in that very second.

First, I am trying to please God and be a better Christian. I think God puts us in situations sometimes to see how we will react, to prove our love for Him.  Attacking her, physically or verbally, would have been the ungodly thing to do.

I am better than that.

Spitting at someone is one of the most degrading things a person can do, but I had to think about more than the act she chose to do in that very moment .

Secondly, I had to think about her mental state. Do I think it was a racist act? Yes. But I had to think beyond that. She was a disabled woman who was probably suffering from withdrawals because she could not get her prescriptions. I don’t know what that feels like. It is no excuse for her actions, but I had to think about that.

Thirdly, my mother is my heart. Everything I do in public, I try to represent her in the highest regard. I am a reflection of her, so I don’t want a bad action of my choice to deflect away from the sweet, God-loving, forgiving, beautiful angel that she is.

After the scene calmed down, the officer asked me if I wanted to press charges.  I said no. I told the officer, “God bless her heart.”

When we arrived back at the station, my General Manager told me how proud he was of how I handled the situation. I received several emails of support from people who were out on the scene. It was definitely a ray of sunshine on a dark day.

Rodney Rocker has been a photojournalist in Mobile, Alabama for 13 years. His interests include photography, videography, exercising, traveling and watching sporting events.

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