We all have a choice in every difficult situation in our life. We can become either bitter or better. - Corina Zalace of Niceville, FL.
Being bitter is easy. Being bitter is tempting. Being bitter allows me to lash out at the perceived source of my trouble. Being bitter allows me to hide behind a wall where no one can really reach or hurt me anymore.
Bitter causes attitudes to develop. We have attitudes about suspected criminals. We develop expectations about people because of their skin color, their ethnicity, the neighborhood where they live and/or what they do to earn a living. Over time, these poisonous attitudes will eat us alive and will weaken us at our core.
In recent days, I have personally once again faced the choice of bitter or better. I have been put in a most difficult situation by two people from my previous home state. Though they carry a badge, they both have denied their responsibilities to the Brotherhood at every conceivable turn.
I am not a religious zealot by any stretch. I try to make it to church every week. I nearly stayed home last week, offering the excuse of being up late on Saturday as my rationale. I got my lazy rear-end up and went anyway.
The preacher's message was simple: if you are where you are in life because it is in your heart, know that you will not take even one step alone. It was another way of phrasing the old quote, God will not take you where God will not keep you. Once again: amen.
I choose to be better - not bitter.
Life Or Death To Your Calling
AT THE BORDER: I recall working at the Ambassador Bridge supporting U.S. Customs following the 9/11/01 attacks. The bridge spans a link between the U.S. and Canada. The first point of contact on the American side was called primary and looked much like a 12-station toll plaza on a freeway.
One weeknight, around 10:00PM, I saw a single car come zooming around the line to a booth that was not attended. I had seen this before. Such a car usually would contain someone self-absorbed with their own importance. They would demand to be given special treatment so that they did not have to wait in line with the common folks.
I was all ready to give my speech, taking the driver off their pedestal, when a young mother threw open the driver's door and held out an infant. In almost a screaming plea, she yelled, "My baby has stopped breathing. Please help!" I did what I had been trained to do. The child started breathing and was just fine.
A CHILD IN THE PROJECTS: I had been assigned to a detail working at the fifth grade graduation of a couple of hundred young school children. Most came from the projects and their opinions about cops were formed during ugly enforcement experiences involving moms, dads and/or older siblings. We cops were not considered the good guys in this crowd.
One youngster caught my eye. He acted defeated, downtrodden and resentful that he had to be there. I learned that rather than sharing the moment with him (as other parents had done), his parents were sharing a joint in the family van outside in the parking lot. They were angry with him because the ceremony had taken so long.
I learned his name was Michal and found out where he lived. That night, I took him a graduation card and a couple of small toys from the Dollar Store. We played catch often throughout the summer. That fall, upon returning to school, he had changed. He was no longer a laggard. He performed so well that he was moved to the Talented & Gifted program.
A 20 YEAR OLD IN THE TRASH: I had just finished booking a prisoner in my suburban Detroit agency. Another officer arrived with a known miscreant who had a long frequent-flyer record with us. My compatriot asked if I would do the booking while he wrote the report. I was happy to lend my brother a hand. The guy in the cell was just 20 years old. I remember thinking it was such a shame to see a life lost like this.
As I removed him from the holding cell, I told him firmly and in no uncertain terms that the experience could be nice or nasty. That call was his. In either case there was a job to be done and it was going to happen. My charge chose to be cooperative - for which I was thankful.