"This is the story he told to me. He said, 'I was coming home through a neighborhood where I shouldn't have been walking alone late at night. It's really dangerous to be there. I should have known better. Suddenly, a man jumped out from behind a building, obviously very high on drugs, and he had a gun. He held the gun on my chest and said, 'I'm going to kill you. Give me what you have.'
"Of course I immediately gave him my wallet. It had a lot of money in it six hundred dollars. There was no question, though I handed it over. But then he kept the gun at my chest, waving it back and forth. He kept saying, 'I'm going to kill you, I'm going to kill you.' I saw that he was very confused. He seemed to be saying 'I'm going to kill you' over and over in order to get the nerve up to do it. I was terrified. I said, 'Wait! Stop! I'll give you something that's very good.' He stopped. I gave him my watch. And then he started over again, menacing me: 'I'm going to kill you, I'm going to kill you.' I said, 'Wait! Stop!' and he stopped, but I didn't have anything else to give him. So I said, 'Listen to me! You did very well. You did great! You have no idea how much money is in that wallet. And that watch is worth a lot. When you go home, your friends are going to be so proud of you. They're going to think you did really wonderfully, Now go home.' And the man turned around and left.
"Even as I saw Bret in front of me, alive and apparently well, I felt relieved. His story, four years after the event, was still frightening to hear.
"I said to Bret, 'How did you know to say that?'
"He said, 'I don't know. I was terrified, but my mind was very focused. It just came out of me.'
"The thought passed through my mind (where the image of Bret's assailant, wildly intoxicated, was still vivid) that unconditional appreciation 'You did great!' is probably the universal, lifesaving password for human connection."