Ten Ways You Can Protect Yourself From Bad Guys During Holiday Shopping Trips

About ten years ago, I was doing some early Christmas shopping at my local Walmart. It was about 9 o'clock in the morning, and for some strange reason the parking lot was practically empty as I walked out of the store pushing the shopping cart to my truck. I noticed in the corner of my eye a man rapidly approaching me from my right and slightly behind me.

He was yelling and seemed very agitated. Of course, my "radar" went up, and I turned around to face him, putting my shopping cart between the two of us.

He was in his twenties, very muscular, and clearly upset:

Can you believe that? Did you hear what they called me?

I had no idea who he was talking about.

I just needed some money for gas, and they called me a --

He let loose with a string of expletives. I responded:

Hey, man how can I help? What can I do for you?

I still clutched the cart, making sure it was between us. (At the time I was not carrying a concealed firearm or any other weapon.)

The angry young man said he ran out of gas (I didn't see where his car was) and needed some money to get to Pennsylvania (the border is about a two-hour drive from my house).

So ... what do you do now? No one is around.

Yes, I am a black belt in karate, but I do not want to fight anyone. I don't see any friends with him, but they could be around. I want to get out of this situation as peacefully as I can. If he wants to rumble, however, I can use the cart as a battering ram or some kind of barrier so I can make my escape.

Well, I'd love to help you, but all I have is this.

While holding on to the cart with my right hand, I pulled a folded five dollar bill out of my left pocket. I dropped it in the basket of the cart. He reached down and grabbed it.

Man that's all you got?

Yep, that's all I have. It'll pay for something. Sorry. Oh wait, here's something else.

I pulled out a Gospel tract and handed it to him (I am a pastor, after all).

I hope this helps.

He seemed very baffled by the Gospel tract, but took both the money and the tract and walked away ... less irritated, but very deflated. I kept scanning my surroundings, got into the truck and left as quickly as possible. I thought I made the right decision. Maybe he really did run out of gas. Maybe not. But it seemed to me that I did the right thing to get out of a sticky situation without any harm coming to anyone.

But the main lesson from that story is to practice situational awareness. I saw a potential threat coming and did what I could to avoid a physical confrontation and leave safely.

I hope you are not accosted this Thanksgiving/Hanukkah/Christmas season, so to better prepare you, here are some tips:

1. Learn how to practice situational awareness

Assume that violence can occur anywhere. Have your head in the game. Scan your surroundings as you are leaving your car, walking to the store, and walking back to the car with your presents.

Do NOT walk around looking at your cell phone! If it rings, get to it later once you are home.

Look confident! Our world is filled with vicious predators who are sizing you up to see if you are an easy target. So be aware -- occasionally turn around to see if someone is following you. Notice who or what has parked next to you. Look under, around, and through the windows of cars parked next to you as you approach your vehicle.