Patience

patience_cardPatience is not, perhaps, my strongest personality trait.  It might even be my weakest.  I always feel a bit sorry for our kids because they have known from their earliest years that when I want something done, I expect them to comply immediately and without hassle. I am aware that sometimes these moments of impatience can be hurtful and that my own rattled nerves are no excuse for forgetting that they are just children. Looking back, I often want to kick myself for an impatience that seems petty in hindsight.

A very long time ago, at a church I didn’t usually attend and, quite frankly, thought was a bit whacko, I, nevertheless, received some great advice.  The pastor said, “Don’t ever pray for patience because God will just give you more things to test your patience.  Once you’ve overcome whatever it was, you’ll realize you are more patient than before and your prayers will have been answered.”

Somehow that made a lot of sense because, at least in my experience, it was true.  As I looked back at how far I had come, I was a lot more patient than when I was younger.  The solution was simple. Stop asking for patience.

In a way, it did help because as I stopped asking for more patience, terrified I would get more tests, I learned to find it within myself to relax and know that as I worked through whatever it was, I would be stronger afterwards.

There is a young woman at work whose father has recently passed away.  She, like most of us when we grieve, is asking how long it will take until she feels better.  I remember that feeling so clearly.  I was impatient with having to wait until I felt better.

Recently I have been feeling that way again as we wait for a decision from the appeal court on Melissa’s application to have her conviction over-turned or her sentence changed from an adult sentence to that of a youth.

Every day when I wake, the first thing I think about is if this day will be the day that we get the call.

At first I was sure we would have a decision right away. Then, perhaps it would come before Christmas, and then before my birthday, none of which has come to fruition.  Regardless of the outcome my overwhelming desire is to have a decision now. I need to know what the future holds, and my impatience with the courts grows with each passing day. I am terrified we will have to start all over again, but impatient, as always, to be put out of my misery one way or the other.

As I reflect back on how hard it was to wait for the initial decision—those four long days of utter agony, I know that very few things have ever tested my patience like that time in our lives.  But I know, also, that the kindness of family and friends and even total strangers got me through this terrible testing time and I am a better person because of it.

If the appeal goes against us, we may wait years for a new court date, a new decision, and experience who knows what added stressors.   But these, too, will serve to give us new insight and new strength.

Nothing in my life has taught me so much or been the catalyst for such personal growth as Stefanie’s murder.  Today I must constantly remind myself that whatever is ahead will also bring with it more compassion and insight into the plight of others, and this is the only way I know to beat back the anxiety and impatience of not knowing.

We all have things in our lives that produce similar feelings—some big and some small.  If we look back and remember that we are better because of these tests, it is easier to tackle the beast inside and trust enough to not allow it to take over our lives.

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Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

untitledLife has a way of working itself out.  I saw a presentation once by former Attorney General Michael Bryant. He had been charged with manslaughter after hitting a cyclist and killing him.   Needless to say, his life was in turmoil for quite a while but in the end he got through it and came out the other side a better person. One of the slides in his presentation was in jest, but with a serious underlying truth. It read: “Everything will be OK in the end; if it’s not OK, it’s not the end.”

Today, our ten-year-old came home from school and told me about his friend whose grandfather had died.  He qualified his next statement by saying, “No one likes to go to funerals, but I think it would be nice for my friend if I was there for him.”

How many kids ten years of age say things like that?

This unusual understanding and empathy in such a young boy reminded me that there are so many good things that have come from his sister’s death, and as I listed them in my head, this seemed particularly heart-warming.

However, if someone had told me shortly after Stefanie’s brutal murder that, eventually, all would be well and that someday I would be able to see the good that would come out of something so horrific, so evil, I would not have believed it.

But there he was, more mature than many adults, able to relate to his classmate due to his own life experience.

As I look back throughout my lifetime at the most difficult moments, it’s easy to see now all the good that resulted from those incidents—friendships that have formed, relationships that have strengthened, a less egocentric view of life, renewed faith, a desire to do good, a more humanitarian lifestyle… and the list goes on.

Of course, at the time, none of that would have mattered to me and, in the case of Stefanie’s death, I would have gladly given up any future “benefits” to have her back.

Sadly, we cannot change the past, but to listen to a little boy and realize that he truly understands the impact of loss enough to want to help his friend, gives me a happy glimpse into his world and his future.

If I were to die tomorrow, I would be at peace knowing he will be a caring, upstanding and productive member of society, and that my job—at least the hardest part—is already done.

Of course, I’m grateful most of all to Stefanie for the gift of kindness she has given all the people whose lives she touched, but particularly her siblings.  They have learned to thrive in adversity and will use those skills for the rest of their lives.

Life continues to throw curve balls at us all, some minor and some not.  I’m not immune to life’s ups and downs just because of our tragic loss. I still get wrapped up in the smaller injustices of life.

But today was a beautiful reminder that if we can trust that we will be OK in the end, we can all get through the tough times.

And as the comic strip said, “If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.”  Be patient, and all will be well.

Posted in gratitude, Hope, Sibling experiences | 7 Comments

A message for the holidays.

A short time ago I was asked to speak on ways to support those who grieve and on taking care of ourselves when life gets tough.

Although I was speaking to a particular group, I would like to share it with all of you, particularly at this time of year.  There are many people who struggle during the holidays and I hope my message will reach those who need it.

From my family to yours, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

 

Posted in Beginnings | 7 Comments

Feeling Overwhelmed?

overwhelmedFeeling overwhelmed to the point of distraction has been the dominant theme of life lately—and not just mine. As I speak to friends, family and co-workers, the weight of every day life seems to be increasingly heavy.

With too many balls in the air one becomes lost in a sea of confusion and paralyzed to take action because there is no clear starting point.

I find that I spend most of my time thinking about all the things I need to complete rather than acknowledging the progress that I’ve made on so many fronts.

When I think about those “to do” items that remain on my endless list, I feel anxious and overwhelmed. But, when I take a few moments to make a mental list of everything that I’ve accomplished, the anxiety subsides and life doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming.

Dr. Tedeschi, who coined the term “Post Traumatic Growth”, says that one of the most important ways to promote healing after a traumatic event is to acknowledge one’s progress, regardless of how minimal.

It occurs to me that this is transferable to all areas of life, and it supports the theory referred to as the Law of Attraction, or, as my friend, who is much smarter than I, reminds me…the law of quantum physics.

For those of you who haven’t heard of the Law of Attraction, it is the belief that we attract things and circumstances into our lives that correspond with both our conscious and subconscious thoughts and beliefs.

We are all pure energy—body and mind—vibrating at difference frequencies. The basic premise is that like energy attracts like energy, so we attract into our lives anything with which we are a vibrational match—good or bad. This happens because we are already connected to everything energetically but we are physically unaware of this due to the limitations of our five senses when interpreting energy fields.

The trick is to become a vibrational match to what we need and desire by making it our dominant frequency, and we need to change our thoughts and beliefs if we’re going to change our dominant frequency.

The best way to become a vibrational match to something is to act as if we already are. Simply put, we need to focus our energy on the belief that whatever we want, we already have, and then we can attract whatever that is into our reality.

Sound like a bunch of nonsense?

You know those days when you stub your toe and then the rest of the day goes down hill from there and inevitably someone asks if something distasteful happened to your cornflakes that morning? You’ve become a vibrational match with negativity and that’s what the rest of your day brings.

Perhaps, instead, it’s a day when everything goes right, so much so that other people notice and tell you to go out and buy a lottery ticket. Once we start to see the world with this in mind, it becomes abundantly clear that it works.

When we acknowledge our successes, more success is bound to come—something similar to the old adage “nothing breeds success like success”. That’s why positive reinforcement is a power tool to combat feelings of anxiety and depression.

I have been busy with a full time job, five children, a part time business, learning to build a website in HTML code and creating and trade marking a tool for promoting resiliency, and those are the big things. What about all the little, less glamorous things like the dishes, the laundry, car maintenance, paying the bills, filing papers, getting the kids to all their sporting events, keeping a house running etc…. Everything we do in a day deserves celebrating.

What accomplishments have you made? Write them down, look at them and congratulate yourself. Then think about what you have left to do and see if you feel less overwhelmed.

Life moves at such a quick pace that it’s even more important to take the time to acknowledge our successes. This is paramount to overcoming a loss, but when we become overwhelmed we begin to lose the joy in life, and that is most tragic of all.

Posted in Beginnings | 5 Comments

Monkey Mind

UnknownSome of you may remember Alison Parrott.  She was abducted, raped and murdered in Toronto in 1986.   She had become quite a good little runner and was to leave the day following her abduction to compete internationally.  However, she was lured from her home by a man posing as a photographer for the upcoming competition.  Alison was just eleven years old.

This week I was fortunate enough to participate in an intimate forum with her mother, Lesley , who bravely shared with us her journey through the darkest times of grief, self-loathing and fear.  But she also spoke about resiliency and how she found a way to not only survive, but thrive, after Alison’s death.

There are so many things she said that struck me, but one in particular was a message I needed to be reminded of this week. She spoke of taming our “monkey mind”.  This expression was new to me but I’ve since discovered that it was Buddha who described the human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, chattering–endlessly clamouring for attention. Hence, we have the term.

In Lesley’s case, the ‘monkey mind’ she most needed to tame was that of recreating Alison’s death and the terrifying things she must have suffered.  I could certainly relate as I have recreated Stefanie’s last agonizing moments over and over until every cell in my body aches.

What she shared next was pivotal.  She said that whatever images we create in our minds, whatever details we use to fill in the blanks are not reality.  I have, as most people do, a fantastic imagination and can recreate the vilest images. But they aren’t real.  The emotion associated with them is, but the only reality is what we are living right here and right now.   Lesley suggested that if we pay attention to the feelings rather than the images we create in our minds, we will fare much better.

Allowing ourselves to acknowledge and experience the waves of pain will eventually soothe the waters and the swells will not be as intense.

I have learned to turn those thoughts off purely out of self-preservation and the only way I know how to do it is by sheer force of will.  Once there, it’s very hard to stop thinking about it.

Recently, during a presentation from Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit, there was a clip from a CCTV camera of a stabbing.   This wasn’t TV or fiction. It was real, raw and wretched. I felt terribly sick, and it took everything I had to maintain my composure. I was, of course, battling those demons once again.

These relapses will happen, but it takes a conscious effort—a decision  to not allow these thoughts to consume us.

This is not exclusive to violence.  Many times we assign meaning to the actions of others and interpret them through our own lenses, creating a false reality, and then we suffer needlessly as a result.  How many times do we replay a conversation with someone and then later think about it so much that it takes on a life of its own—one that was never real at all?

We need to let go of our “monkey minds” and allow ourselves some peace.  Life can exist only in this very moment.  This is our only true reality.

We must stop wishing for a different yesterday and stop projecting into the future.   It takes effort at first, and at times, reverting back to our ‘monkey minds’ is inevitable.  But each time we find ourselves listening to the chatter, we need to gently remind ourselves to come back to the present and just be.

 

 

Posted in closure, Hope, Positive thoughts | 6 Comments

A Need For Privacy

busshootingIn Toronto this week there was an 18 year old male armed with a knife on a bus. Sadly, he was shot and killed by police. As expected, the media is up in arms with scathing reports condemning police action, heightening and sensationalizing a tragic incident, stirring up an already outraged public.

I am not qualified to comment on how the events unfolded or the mindset of the officers who were there.  I do have a perspective that the media doesn’t, but still, it’s not my place to opine.

I am not a fan of The Toronto Star. There is, however, one journalist at the Star—Rosie DiManno—for whom I have a great deal of respect. We have met many times and she was fair and kind to us during Stefanie’s homicide trial. By some twist of fate, I was given a free copy of the Star this morning with my coffee, and her article was on the cover, so I accepted it graciously, genuinely interested in what she had to say.

Little of what she wrote surprised or upset me, except for one small comment that needs to be addressed. I wish desperately someone could make the media understand why this kind of thinking is so upsetting to victims of crime.

For a few short hours, the victim’s name had not been released.  For a few short hours, the victim’s family were given time to absorb the shock, horror and grief in private with some modicum of peace.

DiManno writes:

“…. neither the cops nor the Special Investigations Unit have yet released the victim’s name.  This, just for starters, in unacceptable.  Death by cop, or in any violent circumstances, is not a private matter.”

“The nameless are also the faceless and too easy to ignore.  Further, the whole community has something at stake.”

This makes my blood boil and my brain scream, “Why?”

Why? Seriously—why is it not a private matter? Is the life of the average citizen going to change if he or she doesn’t know, right this minute, the name and address of the victim? Will it make some monumental difference in your life or mine if we aren’t informed immediately about the victim’s poor family? Will we be placed in imminent danger? Are we afraid that if we don’t know every single juicy detail within five minutes of the event that cops everywhere will start shooting people on buses? The truth is, it won’t change our lives one iota, but it will make a terrible difference to the victim’s family.

I understand the purpose and importance of responsible media—without a doubt.  But if, as a city, we truly cared about what happened to this young man, we would support his family’s right to privacy and shield them from those who think they have a right to insert themselves into something that has nothing to do with them. Allow the family to grieve in private or to speak, if they choose to do so.

As far as the officer is concerned, there is no doubt in my mind that he or she did not wake up that fateful morning hoping for the worst this job has to throw at him or her.  That officer now faces ridicule from all sides and it will take someone with a very strong character to overcome this.  They are also a victim because, as I’ve said before, that bullet goes both ways.

DiManno extrapolates not releasing the name of the victim to never getting the truth from police about the incident. Certainly we must hold the police to a high standard of honestly and transparency. I’m the first to expect that.  Perhaps relentless media coverage helps to bring this about, but it has little to do with needing a name and invading the private hell that family is now living.

In the first few days following Stefanie’s death, the media was inescapable, and some of what took place was unforgivable. I know this invasive behaviour is born out of relentless pressure to get the juiciest scoop. Perhaps, also, there is simply blissful ignorance about the needs of a grieving family, but whatever—it is quite simply, wrong.

Once Stefanie’s funeral had taken place, and I had finished testifying at the homicide trial of another little girl, we were fortunate.  My entire family and support system packed up their lives and boarded a plane with us to a place of anonymity.  But how many people can do that? I suspect very few.

As a society, we profess to care about the victim(s) and their families. We set up trust funds and do fundraising for the family—all of which is wonderful.  However, if someone had offered me either ten million dollars or a chance to be media-free those first days, I would not have hesitated for a moment.   Anything that can take some of the stress away during those days is priceless.

By now, we know many sordid details of the victim’s family including siblings, a divorce, ethnic background, neighbours’ opinions of the type of people they are, schools attended, classmates etc…  We know a lot about the personal lives of these people.  Shame on us.

Does it change anything, help us solve anything, make us feel better because we are different from them thereby shielding us from possibly becoming future victims?

The answer, of course, to all of these questions, is ‘no’.

For this family it’s too late, but if we all ban together and show the media we don’t need to know everything immediately, we can make it better for the next family.

 

 

Posted in The Media | 3 Comments

Yes, I’m a control freak!

UnknownAnyone know any control freaks, or do you suffer from this problem yourself?  Needing to feel in control has been one of the biggest struggles of my life, particularly since Stefanie’s death. For the longest time, I thought it was just James and I dealing with the fallout of having all control taken from us and chalked it up to being neurotic—particularly about the safety of the kids. This I accept, forgive, and even embrace—like a badge of honour.

However, it doesn’t stop there and this is where things start to go off the rails.

The positive side of trying to figure this out has been some fantastic discussions with friends who have similar struggles around control, each from their own unique perspective. Thank goodness I’m not alone.  We try to control things in our lives to protect ourselves from being hurt.  There might be times when we push people away because we’re afraid they’re getting too close, or we become somewhat O.C.D. or take up some sort of behaviour that we feel we can control—dieting, exercise, etc…  One thing I do is fill my life with so much stuff that I spend 99% of my time trying to keep everyone and everything organized—controlling, always controlling, which seems to feed the beast that lives inside me.

Recently there has been a significant amount of change in my life, personally and professionally, which, as one might guess, makes the need to be in control that much more pronounced.  Add to that recent news about the final appeal in Stefanie’s homicide trial (coming up in November) and it became obvious that it was time to get my neuroticism under control (how ironic is that?).

The very best way, albeit requiring a conscious effort, is to remain, as much as possible, in the present moment.  For anyone who hasn’t read the book “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, I highly suggest it.

Tolle writes about how the mind has continual conversations with itself that are difficult to turn off and they are all based on what has happened in the past.  To free ourselves from this, we need to try and watch the thoughts we are having as if they were someone else’s thoughts.  When we think of them in that way, they stop controlling us and we can disconnect ourselves from the constant chatter.   Obviously we need to use our thinking minds to solve problems and survive, but by getting some perspective we can enjoy the present moment and bring more peace to our lives.

In his summary Tom Butler-Bowdon writes:

“Tolle’s basic law is that the more we resist our current situation, the more painful it is. Obviously, if we are thinking “This can’t be happening”, the fact that it is makes it unbearable. Waiting and looking forward to the day when you will be happy or prosperous, for instance, only makes resistance to the present situation stronger. The thought that we could be somewhere else, be with someone else, doing something else can turn our life into a living hell. Is there a way out? The author provides a paradoxical solution: you have to forgive the situation and accept its right to be; even if you hate the situation, accept your hatred as part of it, but don’t keep saying to yourself, ‘This is not happening, this can’t be’.

The present moment, Tolle dares us to consider, is actually problem-free. Problems need to exist in time, so the more you live in the present the less life you give them. “

As far as forgiving a situation and accepting its right to be, even if you hate it, owning that hatred and allowing yourself to feel it, is healthy.  Many times we’re not ready to forgive or accept and feel desperate.  Grief and despair are the darkest and most dangerous emotions, whereas anger is actually further up the emotional scale with joy and enlightenment at the top.

The best I can do right now is one day at a time.  When we stop thinking about yesterday and what “might” happen tomorrow, it’s easier to let go of that need to control a future outcome.  I, of all people, know that what we think our tomorrows will hold may not be what we expect.

Posted in Need for control | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Feeling Vulnerable

Unknown…Anyone afraid of feeling vulnerable?  Anyone equate vulnerability to weakness?

Recently at an event primarily made up of other police officers, I felt I had no choice but to step out of my comfort zone and ask a personal favour of all those in the room.  A few—not many—in that auditorium knew of Stefanie’s murder, but we didn’t speak of it. That’s not why we were there. In that instance, however, it was important to the request I was about to make that they all understand the history behind the appeal.

First, I had to speak up—something I rarely do well. In this case my discomfort was compounded by the topic I was about to raise, which was bound to make everyone else uncomfortable. Then I needed to ask for help, a very difficult thing for me.  When I finally found the nerve to speak, the absolute worst thing happened. I broke down and couldn’t articulate what I wanted to say.  It was so embarrassing I wanted to die. This was a room full of my co-workers for heaven’s sake.

Fortunately it was the very end of the session, and I could run out the door and skip the luncheon to avoid bringing my newly resurrected elephant into the room to trample everyone.

As I packed up my car to leave, the most beautiful giant of a man walked up to me and gave me an enormous hug and told me how courageous he thought I had been to speak up.  He had walked past me and could have continued, but instead he made a point of turning around, walked back and hugged me.  I have no idea who he was, but I love him!

He made me feel so much better because he allowed himself to become just as vulnerable with me as I had been earlier in that auditorium.  A conscious decision to accept vulnerability takes an unusual kind of courage. It’s not easy overcoming our natural inclination to protect ourselves from embarrassment, indignity and ridicule. This adorable man must certainly have been worried about my reaction. I had, after all, just cried in front of a whole room full of coppers—and there’s no crying in policing!  What if he set me off again? What man wants some crazed female bawling on his shoulder, especially one he doesn’t know?

But those few moments of vulnerability gave us a connection.  It allowed us to see each other as we truly were, without the façade—just two very human people.   So many of us walk around forever putting on an act, so very afraid others might catch a glimpse of our real selves.

When we do this, we stifle the true joy that can come from being vulnerable because although it’s uncomfortable, it’s also the birthplace of courage, joy, happiness and gratitude.  Courage says it’s okay to be imperfect and authentic, and that gives us a connection to others.

Connection to others is what allows us to both give and receive happiness, joy and gratitude, surely the reason we are on this earth to begin with. I am so grateful for the brief connection I had with that gentleman and for the reminder that letting others see in me that which I perceive as weakness, might, in fact, be just the opposite.

There are so many times we are vulnerable.  When we do anything for the first time, when our emotions overrule our ability to suppress them, when we start a new job, begin a new relationship, when we begin anew (and sometimes alone) after the loss of a loved one.   Being vulnerable is part of life and it’s often very frightening!

But when we truly see others and allow them to see us deeply and vulnerably then we are free to love with our whole hearts, even when there are no guarantees.

 

Posted in anxiety, gratitude, shame | 8 Comments

Annual “report cards” on inmates.

imagesLast week I presented at a symposium for the Department of Justice and was honoured to be invited to be part of a forum with the Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime.  What an amazing group of people!

Frankly, I never saw myself as a victim’s advocate and still can’t imagine myself as a protester demanding changes to our legal system, but something happened this week that leaves me with second thoughts.

We received an annual “report card” on David Bagshaw and Melissa Todorovic—the two who murdered our daughter—from the Victim Services arm of Corrections Canada.  Let me first explain that access to this information is extremely new and comes with the caveat that some kinks are still to be worked out.

This report provides us with details about any education they are receiving and if they have had any serious disciplinary issues.    Both reports came back with no serious issues.

This was interesting to us because David was charged with attempted murder of another inmate while in prison and was shot by guards during this attempt. In a separate event, he was injured by another inmate and, as a result required medical attention.  On another occasion, he assaulted a staff member.

How then, could his report card be missing all those issues that we consider to be somewhat serious?

Well, the attempted murder we heard about from the media (they are allowed to report on it) but because he was charged by an outside agency, no one within the government is able to tell us.

After further examination and a few phone calls, we were told that minor incidents, like the assault on a staff member couldn’t have been serious enough to make it into his report card.  What confidence it gave us to realize that any assaults on staff are quite acceptable and not considered serious.  This is prison, right?

Too serious—no one tells us…not serious enough, and we still are not informed.

Fortunately, we heard about the new charges through the media and have more confidence that he will not be eligible for parole once his 10 years are up.  Had we not known about this and only read his report card, we might be fretting that within a couple of years, he would be free.

We do realize that it is going to happen at some point, but we want to be well-informed once the parole board hearings start.

Melissa also had a good report, but how accurate it is we cannot tell. It will only be about a year and a half and she’ll be eligible for parole.

These are things that I never thought I would ever have to think about, much less fight the government to improve.   Bill C-10, which is very new, has given victims much more access to information than they ever did before, but we still have a long way to go.

I would like to know if Melissa is taking any steps—i.e. counseling etc. toward accepting responsibility for what she did and working to make sure it NEVER happens again.   However, that information is not available to us because it falls under “medical” information, which is private.

I understand the rules around privacy but I think that when a person commits cold-blooded premeditated murder, he or she should no longer expect to enjoy the great privilege of all our Canadian human rights. Surely the most basic right of all is the right to life, and any person who takes that from another has, in my opinion, forfeited his or her “rights” for the duration of incarceration.

Perhaps that is not very charitable of me and as time passes, I may soften my views, but for now, this is where I sit.

What I want more than anything is for David and Melissa to acknowledge their responsibility, work on the very serious issues they must have and to heal so that no other family ever has to face what we are facing by their hands.

Victims give up all control once they enter the criminal justice system and the best way to give that back to them is with information.

 

Posted in Beginnings | 6 Comments

That Bullet Goes Both Ways

220px-Cartridges_comparisonA good friend of mine, a retired SEAL, has taught me many things.  I’m fairly certain that the majority of them haven’t been terribly profound, such as the intricacies of Californian language structure (i.e. ‘whew hew’ versus ‘woo woo’) but once in a while, he comes up with a thought that just sticks.

We met at the Grief Coach Academy where we were both studying to be Grief Coaches, each for our own reasons. Shortly after we met, he told me a story about an incident near Seattle where he resides.

I’m sure to get the details wrong (no need to correct me, Dave) but the overall message was clear.  An ex-marine, employed as a police officer in a small town near Seattle, surely suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and with little or no support, turned his service weapon on a group of people in a park.  His platoon mates were the ones who responded to the call and ended up killing him.

This story is tragic from any angle. What made it worse at the time was that in the aftermath, the officers involved in the shooting were only given 24 hours off, expected to “get over it” and return to work the next day. This included the officer who shot his friend.

In telling me this story, my friend, whose mission is to create a better support system for military personnel, said to me “…what they need to understand is that that the bullet goes both ways.”

Now that may sound like just stating the obvious, but I think it’s something we can all understand in very simple terms. Because the concept is so easy to understand, it’s a good example of how our actions cause a reaction and that if it is true for the negative, it must also hold true for the positive.  

There are careers that are inherently negative—including policing.  They have higher rates of alcoholism, prescription drug abuse, divorce, and even suicide.  I’m fairly certain this isn’t by happenstance.

There are coping mechanisms, of course—one being a very warped sense of humor—but once a person has been touched personally by violence, it’s not very funny anymore. There’s a crack in the armour.

There are so many incredible people doing fantastic things within policing but the public only hears and perhaps expects the negative.   I read a comment in the National Post following an article about firefighters and police officers who jumped into the dirty freezing waters of Lake Ontario trying to save a teenager trapped in a vehicle.  The comment was “what heroics…isn’t that their job?” 

Sadly that teenager died and those human beings who risked their own lives will have to live with that memory. Maybe they have teenagers themselves. 

Of course, their jobs are to fight fires and keep the peace, but that person didn’t even want to hear of something that significant.  Perhaps if one of the would-be rescuers had died in the attempt, then it would have been newsworthy.   It makes me wonder why we are so addicted to drama?

Regardless, that tragedy goes both ways.

I believe, in my heart of hearts, that just as that bullet also goes both ways, an act of kindness or simply acknowledging the good in others, does too – it has to.

This concept does somewhat go against the grain in policing.  Officers need to be tough, and they are. Showing emotion or weakness can be a bad thing in law enforcement, if for no other reason than one becomes the target of that warped sense of humour.

Nevertheless, it is possible to inject positivity into the work day, without becoming weak or maudlin, and this positive approach can only improve the lives of every person who is touched by it.   

Although not recognized by the media and therefore unknown to the public, there are amazing officers who dedicate many hours of their time to better the community in which they police.  These officers have learned how to find a light in the cesspool of negativity that is inherent to police work.  For every negative news article written, there are a hundred other stories that will never be told. 

In my immediate circle I can tell of rock climbing programs for youth, guitar lessons, ice fishing expeditions, hockey lessons, summer camping programs for at-risk youth—all run by officers who volunteer their time and often their own money because they believe in what they are doing. There are hundreds of others in other places, other towns and cities doing the same. 

I also have no doubt that the joy they bring to the lives of others returns to them ten fold which is, of course, the polar opposite of that bullet in a Seattle park.  

Making an effort to inject positivity into our professional and personal lives is paramount for the well-being of others as well as our own mental health. Does it involve more work? Certainly. Is it worth it? I am reminded of that old adage, “nothing succeeds like success”. When we see the delight or quiet gratitude on the face of someone we have praised or helped, we know beyond doubt that this happiness has already been returned to us.

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