When My Kid Sees A Cop

I would hazard a guess that we all get a little sweaty in the pits when we see flashing lights in our rearview. It’s just our gut reaction to the possibility of getting a hefty ticket or maybe something worse, depending on the circumstances. As adults, we have so much to consider when encountering law enforcement, but children don’t have bills, vehicles, or homes. So, why are they having gut reactions to the sight of police lights or uniforms?

I call my step kids ‘bonus kids’. It took a while, but they have done wonderful jobs of accepting me in their lives, and they have learned to trust me with some of the goings on of their minds. In fact, some things just fall right out of their brains. While taking them to school one day, we passed a police officer who had a car pulled over, and the oldest, a 13-year old girl, blurted out, “I hate cops!” This simple statement was said with such venom that one would assume she has already had some kind of horrible experience with law enforcement that had left a bad scar on her heart. She hadn’t, of course. She is a high-achieving student who never lets herself slack in her school work, hardly ever has to be made to do her chores, and chooses to be respectful even if she’s mad as a hornet. Not once, in her young life, has she placed herself in a position to have anything to do with harsh disciplinary action.

When I asked her why she hated cops so much, she said it was because they [cops] are always just messing with people, and that they [cops] seem to only pull over or arrest black people. The best I could say in the moment was that part of the job of law enforcement was to interfere with any crime committed by people of any color, but I did understand if it seemed to her that black people suffered at the hands of the police more often than white people in her world. It did, however, feel important to point out the fact that from the moment a police officer leaves his home wearing his uniform, he has a target on his back. It is simply the nature of his job. Under that uniform, though, he’s just a guy who eats, sleeps, and lives a life just like the rest of us. Someone loves him. Someone wants him home safe. I suggested she try to look at him as just a man doing his job. It sounded like sound advice, but I didn’t know if it was clear enough for her particular brand of upbringing. She nodded, and I could tell that she understood what I meant, but there didn’t seem to be any real acceptance. I can’t say that I blame her.

Her mentality regarding law enforcement comes from the unfortunate circumstances of her having to go from our home to that of her mother on a regular basis…from a suburban conservative home to a liberal inner-city one. Because of the information our kids are exposed to on social media, it’s really hard for them to know what to believe. Throw in the concrete beliefs and passionate opinions of their parents, and these poor kids form their own version of what they think the truth is even if the words aren’t their own. Obviously, the opinions of her inner-city community have more weight because it looks like her and speaks her language, whereas the community surrounding our home is nothing like her. It makes sense that she would be confused and unconvinced by someone who does not live where she lives 50 percent of her time.

She needed a better answer…an answer that could meet her on her level and give her a real-world perspective. No matter what I thought of, it never seemed enough. So, when a police officer found himself in my workspace in a coffee shop, I didn’t hesitate to ask him the question that had plagued me ever since that interesting trip to school. After introductions and a little small talk, I asked him what he would like for our children to know about his life as a police officer in the current state of our nation. His response was so good.

He just wants our children to know that, outside of his choice to be a police officer, he lives a normal life. He breathes oxygen, cuts the grass and (I have to quote this) “picks up dog poop” like most other homeowners with a family and pets. He made no mention of the details of his job. He talked about himself as just a man in a uniform. He also mentioned that when his shifts are over, he just wants to go home. I imagine that he wishes everyone he had to pull over or arrest knew these things about him…that he is just a man who happens to work as a police officer. I say this because he freely acknowledged that an irresponsible driver or a suspect wants to be known as just a person as well…a person who made a bad (or even horrible) decision, but a person nonetheless. The empathy required to acknowledge something like that was refreshing coming from a person who, on sight, would strike fear in the heart of a 13-year old black honor student who has been taught to fear him.

Empathy is supposed to create new eyes that see people and their circumstances more clearly. These new eyes should be capable of looking beneath surfaces and seeking the whole picture. These new eyes are low in cost and only require caring enough to have conversations that matter…to listen for the purpose of understanding and manage our encounters with one another accordingly, even in the face of danger. The pay off is often much bigger. Seeing the faint smile on the face of my bonus kid while sharing this story was well worth what had to have been no more than a 5-minute conversation. I do not want her to be afraid, and if I can alleviate her fear in the slightest, I will do so. In fact, I will also do what I have to do to help her see the whole world…not just opinionated pieces of it.

That’s the twist here: the officer and the suspect both have families. They both want to be treated like human beings, regardless of which side of the line they are on. Somewhere in the clouds of blue cries for order and black cries for justice, we have lost sight of these facts.

Now, I do not know what kind of police officer this man is, but I do know his name. I also know that he loves coffee and hates picking up dog poop. In the interest of teaching a child how to really see people and have compassion, that’s a perfect place to start.

Thanks, Officer!

All About The Trees

real relationship goals

Better Together

| Learning Real Relationship Goals Through the Beauty of Trees |

When something in our lives breaks, we feel the need to try to fix it right away, paying very little mind to the fact that the rest of the world is, indeed, still turning. We are trying to survive, trying to be happy, and trying to win our race in this life. If the break is bad enough, we are often forced to pause in our efforts, and somewhere in that stillness, we begin to notice things we had been too busy to notice before…like people, nature, or the many precious little things that are often overlooked in our search for greatness. It was in such a pause that I began to pay attention to the beauty of trees.

Trees are not only beautiful and essential to our lives, but they also have such an interesting rhythm of life. Starting from single seeds, they form roots and grow according to how well they are nourished and provided for. As they grow, they ebb and flow with the changing of the seasons, shedding leaves or growing new ones depending on their environments. In fact, their environments teach them how and when to adapt to changes. These amazing organisms even depend on one another for survival.

Does that not sound so much like our lives as human beings? We definitely thrive when we communicate and work together toward a common goal. When we understand our individual needs and desires, we can truly see one another. We can embrace the collective value of differences in strengths, weaknesses and perspectives. To have such a clear view of others, we have to work on clearly seeing our own worth.

Our worth is not based on our occupations or the way others view us. It is based on the things that make us who we are, and by the virtue of being so thoughtfully designed, we are PRICELESS! There isn’t a number in existence that can be put on a tag to show the sum of your experiences, your skills, your talents, your gifts, your memories, or even the many tones of your voice. All of these things come together in the tool kit that you need to prepare for and fight the battles of your life.

Just like the tree that sheds its leaves for the coming of winter, you get to shed the things that will have no place in the adventures ahead. You get to throw away the baggage of shame, regret, and fear so that you can step into your brand new season, ready to bloom again! Sometimes, when things are broken, the breaks create room for more beautiful things…or people…to fill the gap. Just like the trees, we are beautiful. We are alive. We are essential…and better together!

It’s OK to be a Chicken

4 Steps to Pushing Through Fear

Fear is the thief of growth and change that we cannot afford to feed. We can’t kill it, but we can put it so far in the background that it loses its power and ill-gotten authority over us.

An entire life can be consumed by fear in ways that stops all growth, all change and all good things. Sure, every doggie gets a bone every once in a while, but fear cancels the option for a daily influx of good, meaty and tasty bones. Some of us are afraid of failure. Some of us are afraid of success. Some of us are afraid of the dark. Some of us are afraid of the light. Whatever our fears, they gain more power every time we choose not to face and make war with them.

It’s OK if you’re a chicken. What’s not OK is failing to live it in spite of the fear. It is a normal thing to be afraid of the unknown or to be wary of a situation, but there is a great benefit to trying anyway because the only thing that can fail is a try. So, when we don’t bother trying because we’re afraid of failing, we cheat ourselves out of discovering new areas of ourselves and those around us, taking new opportunities, or gaining new life and work skills. Also, in a very twisted way, we can even cheat ourselves out of love and care because we are too afraid to be vulnerable. Lastly, and maybe the worst thing, we cheat ourselves out of functioning in our purpose even if we don’t know what that is yet. We will never find it if we’re always afraid to walk outside and look for it.

So here are a few ways to handle the thief blocking the entrance to your life:

Name it

If we want to conquer our fears, we need to first identify them one at a time. Whether it’s a fear of heights or a fear of loneliness, we have to call it by its name if we ever hope to make it obey us. When a boss, leader or authority figure wants something, they don’t just blurt out a need. They go to their subordinate and say things like, “Hey Dave, I need you to take care of this.” or “Hey Kate, do you have this done?” We identify the person and then we state our request. When you approach your fear and call it by name, it becomes more vulnerable to you because now you know its name. An even clearer example may be calling our poor children by their entire government name when they’re in trouble. When they hear their whole name, they know that mom or dad is serious, and that there will be no room for disobedience.

Define it

Knowing our fears and knowing why we are afraid are often two different things. In order to better instruct it, we have to figure out why that thing bothers, frustrates and frightens us so much. If you have a fear of traveling, why? Are you afraid of crashing? Are you afraid to be too far away from your home? Are you afraid of traffic or crowds? For these or any other reasons, why do these reasons exist? Take a look back. Really dig deep and look for the root of that fear of traveling. When you find it and understand why, you’ll be able to reconcile that root with what is going on now.

Run and Tell it

If we were capable of conquering our fears alone, we’d be rid of all of them by now. Whether we like it or not, we all need help. Now that we’ve identified and defined our fear(s), we have to put ourselves in a position of authority over them. In my experience, the best way to do that has been through prayer to give myself something to focus on that I know is bigger than my fear. If you’re not there yet, that’s perfectly fine. You can always phone a friend, coach or mentor who can help you talk, cry and shake your way through it. A friend, coach or mentor who can pray for you is a bonus. However you choose to tell it, make sure that the person you tell will never be OK with allowing you to stew in your fears. Make sure they love you enough to push, pull or drag you if you need it. You can be angry and even afraid, but the choice will be yours to work through it or live in it.

Surrender it To God

When you surrender it, you’ll be lighter, and you will begin to move forward. It will be difficult the first several times, but each time you take a step, your fear gains less and less control, because the perfect love of Christ will begin to cast it out (1 John 4:18). Whatever you are afraid of will still exist, but over time, the space in your mind for it will become so small that it will soon find itself out of real estate. It won’t be because you’ve become a better person, a saint or a boss. It will be because you will have learned to trust God more than you believe your anxieties. You will be afraid, but you will choose to go.

This is my personal formula, born of my preference to know the way things are made and how they work. The only way I understand to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) is to let God help me wrestle my fears into submission. Not all of us are that brand of bold, and that is not a problem. Whatever equation or process God gives you, however long it takes, you get a total of 365 days in a year to wake up and make decisions that can change your life for the better or for the worst. The reality of just how many opportunities we are given to make those decisions doesn’t weigh that much until we realize that God really understands our natures when it comes to fear. He even addresses it often. 

Get up and take your first steps.

It will be difficult the first several times, but each time you take a step, your fear gains less and less control, and you will have more and more power over your decisions. The fear won’t change, but your mindset about it will change. Whatever you’re afraid of will still be there, but over time, the space in your mind for it will become so small that it will soon find itself out of real estate. It won’t be because you’ve become a better person, a saint or a boss. It will be because you’ve learned to love yourself and others more than you’re afraid. You will be afraid, but you will choose to go, do and say in spite of the fear. Instead of just a chicken, you will then be an armored chicken…aware of the risks but willing to take them.

Hello world!

I am very excited to settle into my new home here at WordPress! Thank you all for sticking in there with me and supporting me with all the love, laughter and wisdom. I trust this journey is about to get even more incredible for all of us, and I can hardly wait to see what’s next!