Teaching My Kid To Help Others In A World Of Strangers
Helping others is a lesson many know but few do. One of the assignments that I was involved in as a police officer was training of new officers. In police academies we teach and train new recruits safety tactics that we’re learned “the hard way” – from other officer’s mistakes, such as. . .
The Always and Never Rule
“NEVER reach into a running motor vehicle for fear of being dragged” or
“ALWAYS keep you’re distance between you and a dangerous suspect.”
In retrospect, during my career as a street officer in order to get a job done I found myself having to violate the Never / Always rules by reaching into many running vehicles as well as allowing myself to get way too close to some people.
So what gives? Was I wrong? Do we teach and send the wrong messages?
I don’t think so. The NEVER / ALWAYS teachings are “rules of thumb.” They are not absolutes, but guides to help us make a guess. Rules of thumb are easy-to-remember and fall somewhere between a mathematical formula and a shot in the dark, that’s why we teach them.
What About Sometimes?
It’s easier to teach and remember… NEVER / ALWAYS versus SOMETIMES, BUT ONLY WHEN, etc….
My story begins on a sunny Sunday morning my son, who was 12 at the time, and I were driving to the local baseball field in town to hit some baseballs .
Just around the corner from the field is an old school that is now a community arts center. While driving by I noticed a disabled vehicle, in the parking lot, with a flat tire and three older women, standing around the car looking bewildered.
My son will later ask me how I saw the car, the flat tire, and the old ladies ….. I can defer that question to my wife, who will tell you that cop’s have a habit of looking everywhere but where we’re going while driving. That’s not far from the truth.
I pulled into the far end of the lot and drove back toward the ladies asking if they needed help. They were clearly flustered, embarrassed and unsure of what to do. At first they told me they did not have a spare tire so I offered them a ride and the use of my cell phone.
One of the women then said she really wasn’t sure where the spare tire was located, I asked them if they wanted me to check for a spare. I found the spare right where it was supposed to be, under the trunk floor mat.
My son and I changed the tire for these flustered ladies, after thanking us and chatting for a bit they asked me who I was. I have to admit that I was tempted to answer her in my best George Clooney impersonation, “I’m Batman!” Instead introduced myself and son and left to hit some balls.
While driving away my son started in with a myriad of NEVER /ALWAYS questions:
Q. I thought you told me never to go near strangers?
Q. Why did we stop?
Q. What if they were bad people?
Q. Why did you offer them a ride?
Q. You told me never to take a ride from strangers. You said always assume that strangers offering rides are dangerous. And never to go with them. What were you thinking dad!!!
So I tried to explain to a him that although those rules are good guidelines, and one’s that he should still follow, my job as a police officer requires that I break the rules all the time.
I explained that being police officer is a vocation for me and not a 9 to 5 job and even though I was not working I felt helping those women was the right thing to do.
I tried to explain that in a split second we DO judge a book by its cover? We do size people up as threats or non-threats, and sometimes go against the “always and never” teachings.
Knowing that saying “DO AS I SAY, AND NOT AS I DO” doesn’t fly with a teenager I tried to explain to him the best I could about threat assessment, sizing up the situation from afar, using limited information to come to a safe conclusion.
I explained that it is important to base decisions on our individual training, experience, self-defensive skill sets, and knowledge – all with the intention on balancing the importance of helping people in need and staying safe.
I’m not sure I answered all his questions but I sure did have fun hitting balls!