Cops and Compassion

Cops and Compassion

In my early 20’s, I would have made an awful police officer.

After college, I moved to NY and worked in New York City. Two years later, at the age of 23, I left because I was turning into someone I didn’t like. I was becoming harder, more guarded, suspicious, and more ist—classist, racist, educationalist, and probably several other ists.

NYC is a place where you see the best of people and the worst of people. When faced with extremes, we start to think in extremes.

When we constantly see people under stress, living difficult lives, it is easy to put them in a box. We have no curiosity about who they are, and why they are doing what they are doing.

In our minds, they become what we label them.

The great child psychologist Jean Piaget wrote, “every problem behavior was once a solution.”

We can’t have compassion when we see people as bad, rather than people trying to solve problems (even when those actions create problems).

When we lose our compassion, we lose our humanity.

I don’t know what it would be like to be a police officer. I do know they are often called into people’s lives at their worst. They see people who are hurt and who hurt others. Given my experience in NYC, I know how difficult it would be to maintain compassion if I faced people at their worst on a daily basis.

At a Rotary board meeting once, I heard about police officers taking supplies like diapers when they go on domestic calls. They pay for these supplies out of their own pockets.

Right before I sat down to write this, 3 police cars raced by, lights flashing and sirens blaring. I sent them a silent prayer, wishing them grace under pressure, and the ability to think and act clearly, and with compassion.

I’m still not sure if I would make a good police officer.

I do know these humans–whether they are the police or the people they are there to arrest, or to help–can use all the compassion and love they can get, and that we can give them.

Take care,

Dig Deep and Know Your Strength

Dig Deep and Know Your Strength

I believe tragedy shows us who we are, at our core.

In my twenties I often wondered how I would have responded in WWII if I were in Germany and not Jewish. Would I have turned in Jews? Would I have punished others? Would I have helped Jews, risking my life and those I love—to be humane in a time of hatred? Would I have stood by silently, hoping to get through unharmed–trying not to feel the enormity of lives lost? I don’t know.

One sunny afternoon, when I was in college, a group of my friends and I were sitting in a loose circle on the floor of a dorm room, talking about whatever was on our minds at the time. I looked around the circle, wondering why we all choose to be friends.

It hit me—we had all suffered a trauma of some sort. Each of us. Yet here we were, winding our way through a very demanding college, making friends, having fun, thriving.

Being the overly-philosophical one of the group, I asked my friends what they thought—were our traumas what brought us together?

It was not our trauma, we decided—it was our strength.

We all had a sureness, a solidness, we each unconsciously recognized. It drew us to each other. Don’t mistake me—we (or at least I) all had our own brand of insecurity, suffering, and angst. But we felt strength below that.

We are in a time of mass trauma. Listening to the news yesterday morning. I almost sank to my knees, as further realization of the devastation sank in.

I wondered how I was going to handle all the pain I was feeling.

Then it hit me—I’ve been in training for this most of my life. I’ve been through tragedy and survived. I’ve felt immense pain and moved through, and past it.

I love reading fantasy novels, books with other worlds, magic, villains, and very flawed heroes and heroines. The characters dig deep, find their strength, and save themselves and others as a result.

Sadly, what we are living through with COVID-19 is not fantasy. The entire world is experiencing the very real struggles, uncertainty, and fears too many face all their lives.

Many of us have already been tested, and though we still struggle, we know our strength. We will make it through, stronger, even if the end result is death.

This is a time for us to dig deep and remember—or discover—our strength, our resilience, our human need to connect, love, and care.

Some will be too scared and will shut down, closing in on themselves to ward off the knowledge of what is happening. Give them your compassion.

Find loved ones in your life, or authors, speakers, and leaders who inspire you. Spend time with their words, wisdom, and strength.

Let their strength touch your strength.

For me, Brene Brown is a touchstone. She reminds me of who I want to be—who I can be. She just started a podcast, Unlocking Us. As I type this, I’m listening to Liz Gilbert being interviewed by Chris Anderson of TED. It is a worthy way to spend an hour.   John McCutcheon is a folk artist who is, quite simply, a good human being. I am more in love with the world every time I hear his music. 

Be kind to yourself, dear one. As Liz Gilbert said, cover yourself with a “blanket of mercy.” We are all struggling.

Struggle is ok, it is natural. Allow yourself to feel the pain. You will survive.

Remember your strength, your courage, your ability to care. Let this time hone you. Let yourself come out stronger, more courageous, more honest, more caring, more you.

I love you. You can do this.

Take care,

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