I was then introduced to a most remarkable person: Coach Bob Lindsey from Asheville, NC. Coach told us that he has 45+ years behind him in law enforcement. Today, he is happy and healthy. It wasn't always so.
He told his story. He is married to his third wife. In the past he has struggled with drugs, alcohol, depression and various other demons brought on by the way he chose to handle the stresses of the job. He spoke from the heart. I could look into his eyes and see his soul. He had participants many in tears - or on the verge. He had reached his low point when he concluded back then that he could never win. "There is no point in trying, because nothing will change anyway," he thought.
Now, he knows better. He has a deep and abiding faith in God which he lives out every day. He exudes his faith in his brother cops with every word, glance and action. Before finishing the class, he told us to take our books and get a pen. With everyone ready, he gave us his home phone number, his cell number and his email address. Anytime we needed him 24/7, just call. He will always be there for us. I then heard him say, Non Soleus, which is Greek for never alone. It is part of his life's signature.
THE SAFETY OF ANONYMITY
Getting out of your element has immense value. New surroundings cause us to examine the environment. New people make first impressions. We use all of our sensory receptors in order to adapt to this new place and these new people.
Again, I think of Police Week and now the ILEETA conference.
There is no baggage. Though we may all be cops, we are not weighed down by the trials and tribulations of the past. We are judging and being judged by others only at this moment. For most, it is a liberating experience. It offers a sense of safety because no one really knows you.
The upshot is that we are willing to risk revealing more of ourselves. It is in this kind of exchange that our attitudes and emotions are nurtured. They are allowed to breathe. They can be exposed without the typical fear of ridicule.
Each time I participate at one of these events, I marvel at how relationships between cops are created. It often happens very fast and feels as though it has been there for one's whole life.
The friend I made at lunch spent time with me over a few beers at the hotel bar that evening. Rather quickly, the conversation got meaty. We talked about some of our personal struggles. He is in his mid thirties. Over his life, he has a history of being attracted to women who are just plain bad news.
I told him that my wife and I have been married for about 1,000 years, we have a couple of kids and two awesome grandsons (ages 4 & 2). He too wants the stability of a wife, kids and a home. We talked, shared and all the stuff that guys do when drinking beer. When it was over, he had helped me and I believe that I helped him a little, too.
Bottom line: he is a Brother whom I have just met. Yet, we will be wired together going forward. I feel like I have known him for my whole life. I am confident that God has a hand in bringing people together. I firmly believe I had experienced divine intervention at that moment.
GIVING AND TAKING
The current popular term is, networking. In the old days, we called it something else. These times together are important. In many cop events, this is when we receive the real value of the experience.
We are away from our normal work environment. We are without the demands of daily life, i.e. wife, kids, etc. It is the perfect kind of setting to regain our perspective on the big picture. Mostly, these gatherings are intense experiences that stretch over a few days. It is an immersion with others with whom we share a common bond. When they are over, it can be tough to say goodbye, so we just nod and utter, stay safe.
Each time, my desire is reignited. I am once again truly motivated to be a good cop and a giving person. The belief that I can make a difference - no matter how small or seldom - has returned.
At the conclusion Police Week and the ILEETA conference, I feel a warm glow inside coupled with a strong sense of encouragement and hope.