Stella Pope Duarte

My big win

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Stella_pope_DuarteWinning something can bring excitement, joy, a new outlook on life, or just a sense of “being lucky.” What kind of win would bring you the greatest joy? Maybe you are a person centered on family, and your greatest joy would be to see your children successful and your family healthy.

A big win came to me unexpectedly this past year in the strangest way; not at all something that most people would consider a “win” – yet it was huge. It came to me on the evening of June 12, a Tuesday evening, as I left my daughter Deborah’s house. The night was quiet and all seemed tranquil. As I turned left onto 7th Street, from a residential street just north of McDowell, I saw liquid splash all over my windshield. It startled me, and I instantly braked. Standing in my car lights was a man dressed in casual clothes with earphones attached, as if he were just walking through the neighborhood. My first thought was one of horror. I had almost hit him!

The man then began to yell at the top of his lungs and threw an object at my windshield, which sounded like metal. He came around to the driver’s window and was literally jumping up and down in rage, screaming obscenities that I had not heard since my divorce twenty years ago. He continued throwing things at me, unknown objects that made loud sounds – boom, boom, boom or whack, whackit’s hard to tell what things sound like on a car’s surface. Later, I discovered he had cracked my windshield and bent the frame around the driver’s window.

I rolled down my window just a bit, and was actually trying to ask him if he was okay. As one of my aunts once told me, the “S” on my forehead was not for Stella, it was for “sucker.” I have been known to continue forward in the face of danger, often not counting the cost to myself. I believe that if the man had had a gun, he would have shot me and run off into the neighborhood, probably unidentified for years to come. Surprisingly, the street was quiet, very quiet for 7th Street, and this was a blessing, as traffic did not pose a problem. 

I finally drove away, knowing that I would not be able to get a straight answer from the enraged man, perhaps one under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Then the “big win” came. As I drove away, I noticed that my hands were not ice cold, and my heart was beating at a normal rate. It seemed as if nothing had happened. I drove all the way home in this condition. I knew I was not in shock, as symptoms of shock are easy to identify. 

I arrived home and simply reported to my son, “I’ve been attacked on the street.” He looked at me and said, “Why are you so calm?” All I could say was, “I don’t know.” At any other time, I would have been shaking, my hands trembling, my teeth chattering, as I used to get in the desperate years of domestic violence in my marriage. I called my daughter and asked her to look out her door at the street corner to see if police were there. She told me all was quiet. It was then that I discovered my “big win.” The violent man had not made me flinch; he had not touched me internally. So, that is what it means to live by the spirit and not by the flesh. The sensation was wondrous.

Stella Pope Duarte was born and raised in South Phoenix. She began her award-winning career in 1995 after she had a dream in which her deceased father told her that her destiny was to become a writer. Contact her at

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