CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Archive for the tag “Police”

Another terrible event becomes an indicment.

The latest incident involving a police shooting (North Charleston, South Carolina) to hit the national news is a cop that shot a man in the back as the man was running away.  The cop fired eight times, hitting the man five times.  The man was killed.  It appears that they were in a scuffle, that the officer hit the man with a Taser, and after that they scuffled.  It looks as if the Taser either was dropped or was thrown prior to the scuffle.  After the shooting, the cop looks as if he picked something up and dropped it near the man that was fleeing.  He radioed in that the Taser had been taken away from him, shots were fired, and the suspect is down.

So, to recap: 1) Cop confronts man, man is Tasered.  2) Man scuffles with cop after being Tasered; Taser is either lost by or taken away from the cop.  3) Man flees the cop. 4) Cop shoots the man from behind. 5) Cop moves something from near himself to near the downed man.  6) Cop calls it in. 7) Man dies. 8) No weapons other than the Taser are found by the man. This case is all over social media, with a huge amount of opinion being expressed regarding the incident.

What is my professional perspective on this?  The shooting looks bad to me.  First, though, here’s a little information on the police shooting someone from behind.  If a police officer shoots someone in the back, that is not in and of itself a disqualifier indicating a bad shoot.  If the individual that is fleeing from the police has committed a violent felony, and the police officer believes others may be at risk if that person escapes, shooting is warranted, if the individual is armed or not.  Couple cases in point:  First, the Boston Marathon bombing.  Once cornered, if the suspect(s) had decided to run away from the police, the police would have been justified in shooting them, period.  Secondly, if an individual just stabbed, shot, or bludgeoned someone, and that individual runs from the police, the police are justified in shooting the fleeing suspect, even if that person is shot in the back.  This is a different standard than for non-police personnel.  A civilian has the right to self-defense, but if the suspect is fleeing, the civilian is not in imminent danger.  In that regard, a civilian shooting someone from behind that is fleeing is much more problematic.

As I said, in the current incident, it looks like a bad shoot to me.  I am more than willing to allow the case to be investigated, and if it is found that the cop acted improperly; if he is subsequently charged, tried, found guilty, and imprisoned, so be it.  However, that is not what troubles me.  What bothers me is that it appears that all that will matter with this incident is the racial component.  Because the cop in this case is white, and the man that died is black.

So in my view, I fear that the cop has little to no chance for any fair evaluation of what happened.  Did the police officer shoot the man because the cop is a racist, and a black man was running away from him?  That is a possibility.  Could the cop have genuinely feared for his life during the struggle and made a horrid, terrible decision that cost a man his life and then tried to cover it up?  That’s possible as well.  I don’t know.   I don’t know the cop, and I’m not competent to read his thoughts at the time he pulled the trigger.  On the other hand, folks are going to say that it isn’t really relevant what he thought.  “White cop shoots Black man,“ and in this case, shot him in the back.  But even that isn’t the main point.  As long as it’s “White cop shoots Black man,” the initial assumption is going to be racism.  Actually, it doesn’t matter if the cop shoots him in the front, back, side, top or bottom, it doesn’t matter what the circumstances surrounding the shooting are, it doesn’t matter how many witnesses there are or what they say.  “White cop shoots black man.”  That’s all that matters.  In fact, it doesn’t even matter if the cop shoots the black man.  If the white cop arrests the black man, if the black man gets bruised or battered in any way, the initial assumption is that it’s racial.  If the black man is merely confronted by a white cop, it’s the same assumption.

What was the cop thinking?  Doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that a white cop shot a black man.  What was the black man thinking?  Likely folks will say he was terrified of the white cop and fearing for his life, fought with the cop and ran, ultimately (in this incident) losing his life.  So, what the black man thought was extremely important.  The white cop’s thoughts?  Irrelevant.

I have tried to educate folks on why cops do what they do; what cops think, why it’s important for the police to operate as they do in probably 99.999% of the situations they encounter.  But my efforts mean nothing.  Folks are going to think what they are going to think, and cops are (in their minds) going to remain racist, and for them the cops are going to remain in many (if not most) cases, the bad guys.

The problem is that cops, including me, just can’t win.  Heck, according to the narrative, we’re so racist (and deluded/ignorant/stupid, use whatever sobriquet you wish) that we don’t even know we’re racist.  The system is so racist to begin with, that even if a cop is trying to use good motivation, it’s racist anyhow!  Even the investigation cannot be trusted to be a fair and partial evaluation (unless the cop is found to be wrong, then at least in this case, justice prevailed), because the system is so inherently racist, that the cop will likely get a pass for killing a black man.

Are there racist cops out there that should not be police?  I would say that is very likely.  But even after a career spanning three and a half decades, I have never seen or heard of a cop acting on a racist impulse to harm, or arrest (or not arrest) someone based on the color of that person’s skin.  What a person thinks, and what a person acts on, are not necessarily the same.  Are there people of color that have gotten a bad shake from the police due to racism?  Sure, I have known a few that have suffered from that, people that I care about.  Do racist incidents happen?  Yep, I will not even argue that point.  I recognize that inequity exists, and that we must fight it.

But, back to the present case.  Did the officer act inappropriately, and should he be punished?  I am willing to wait for the investigation to be concluded.  For me, I don’t care what the skin color of the cop is, or of the man he killed.  If the shooting was appropriate, it was appropriate.  If it was not, it was not.  What I am not willing to do is sit in judgement prior to the facts of the case coming out.  What I am not willing to do is to allow the “courts of public opinion” to make the final determination.

Do I sound bitter?  You bet.  I am tired of police officers automatically being assumed to having acted from racist motivation.  And one more aside.  During my career as a Detective Sergeant, I was assigned a case in which a fellow police officer was accused of improperly hitting a man with his flashlight during an arrest.  I worked with my partner in Detectives and the District Attorney’s office, and ultimately I charged the police officer with assault.  The cop was stripped of his badge and gun, processed like any other arrestee, and taken to trial.  And yes, the cop was white, and the victim was black.  But as I indicated earlier, that is likely irrelevant.  Because according to the narrative, I am a racist, and I serve a racist system.

Caught in the corner.

Hang on, dig in, strap down, get set.  I am going to state a truism that may just rock your world.  Ready?  Here it is:  Life is hard.  Yep, I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you, but there it is.  Life is hard and there is nothing to be done about it.  “Life is pain Highness.  Anyone that tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something.”

When I was young (Wait.  I meant younger) I thought I was ready for anything that life had to throw at me.  I thought I would chew it up and spit it out.  Little did I know just how painful life can be.  Let me describe what I mean.

I met Beth at Behrend College of Penn State in 1975.  Through her feminine wiles, we soon fell in love and planned our life together.  Long walks, long talks, gazing into each others’ eyes, we did all those dewy, romantic and saccharine things that young couples often do when they fall in love.  Objectively speaking, our romance was (and remains) the best and finest romance in the history of the world.  And I wouldn’t trade one single minute for anything.

We married in 1978 (see, Beth?  I do too remember) and started with nothing more than an old Chevy Impala given to us by my folks, a cat, and love.  What a grand start to a marriage!  We moved to northwestern Pennsylvania and I found a job in, of all places, a donut factory on my way to my life-long dream job of being a policeman.  I got into police work over thirty years ago, and the trials and travails Beth and I experienced could have wrecked us multiple times.  But from the beginning, we both loved God more than anything, and have worked to make Him, and Him alone, the focus and center of our marriage.

Children came along, planned and anticipated.  Loved, adored, and our pride and joy.  We raised them “purposely and intentionally,” a catch phrase with a set of our closest friends; a catch phrase, but describes our parenting very nicely.  Everything we did with them was intended to be a life’s lesson, to instruct them and to train and prepare them for everything that life was going to throw at them.  Clearly we were not perfect, and there are innumerable moments I wish I could take back, change, re-do.  But we’re not given that option, are we?  Even so, no one has ever loved their children more, or worked harder to raise their children to be the best they could be.  I went back to school part-time, and worked toward my Master’s Degree from Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA.  I found that I enjoyed my class work (as opposed to my undergrad experience) and excelled.  Of course, I devoted a ton of time to my school work to do so, but enjoyed it none the less.

In the mid-1980’s, I joined the Erie Police Department in Erie, PA.  Having come from a small police department where every sneeze and belch was noted and scrutinized, when I moved to a larger department I was like a kid in a candy store.  I had more fun than anyone had a right to.  But all things change, and even good things have a habit of diminishing.  I finished my Master’s degree program and eventually left the street to become a detective, then a Detective Sergeant working Homicides, bank robberies with FBI agents, Presidential protection details with the Secret Service, Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT),  just about any cool thing that one could desire.  I had a “patron” that was guiding me in the ways of politics within the city, and I was moving toward higher ranks; meeting people, shaking hands, joining clubs and organizations.

During this time I also worked in our church.  I found myself elected to the Deacon board, which at the time was kind of a combined Elder/Deacon position.  We made policy for the church, as well as watching for the immediate spiritual needs of our brothers and sisters in the congregation.  As was typical, I threw myself into it, and spent a lot of time working for the church.

As are many men, I am driven to excel at whatever task I take on.  And for most of the things I try, I push myself until I’m pretty good at whatever it is I am doing.  However, as I pushed and struggled to advance, I noticed something.  My daughters were in High School, perhaps only a few years from graduating and moving on.  And I hardly knew them.

I remembered some of the ideals that Beth and I had as young marrieds and as young parents, and I did not want to look back and regret the time that I devoted to my job; I did not want to regret the time that I should have given to my children.  So I did something that was very difficult for me.  I took myself off the fast track at work.  Man was I disappointed.  But, I thought, at least I had my church and my family.  Family, church, and work.  I measured myself as a successful man by these three things.

Oops, one down.  I intentionally gave work away, but that’s ok.  I still had the other two.  I convinced myself that as long as I “succeeded” at church and family, I was ok.  Work was actually the third on the list anyway, so I could be less than at the pinnacle there and still be a success at the other two.  However, church is a funny thing; it’s filled with people.  And people are the same no matter where they happen to be located.  I dealt with good folks and mean folks all across the spectrum.  I dealt with issues that I wish I had never known about.  Ultimately I kind of flamed out with leadership in church, too.  When my term as Deacon expired, I did not seek re-election, and I am not sure how eager I am even now, twenty-something years later, to repeat that experience.

Two down.  But I still have my family.  And this is the most important of the three.  As long as I “succeed” at family, I still have worth in my eyes.  I am still a “successful” man.

You kind of see what’s coming, right?

I had read a book once that described a father’s raising his family, and essentially his thoughts were that no matter what success he had elsewhere, if he didn’t raise his children well, what good is he?  I agreed with that, and worked accordingly.

Now before I continue, I want to make clear that I love my children.  With my whole heart, mind, soul, and strength.  Nothing has ever changed that, and nothing ever will.  Further, I need not detail more than this.  They are good people, working to be the best that they can envision themselves to be.  I am proud of them and their accomplishments.  Suffice it to say here that they have chosen to walk a couple of paths that I would not have chosen for them.  Their lives, their decisions.  I respect that and will support them, love them, help them to the best that I am able.

I think that at least in part, I took their “contrary” decisions personally, that it was my responsibility for where they have chosen to be.  Of course, each of us will ultimately take ownership of our choices and decisions, but at the time, I keenly felt that I was an abject failure as a father.  And for me that was strike three.  I was a failure as a man.

Some people turn to drink, some people may become even more spiritual, some turn to other outlets to ease the pain.  I have had several.

For years I have struggled with, shall we say, less wholesome outlets.  I honestly don’t know how teens can cope with the internet.  One can instantly find just about anything one would care to find.  With all that one can access today via the internet, I wouldn’t have survived as a teen.  Anyhow, through a lot of prayer, working with several dedicated and spiritual men, this particular area is much less difficult for me than it once was.

But there were other ways that one can feel momentarily better.  Food is one of my biggest struggles.  I love food.  I love the smell of good food, I love the taste of food and its texture as I roll it through my mouth, I love the satisfying feel of a full stomach.  And Beth is honestly the best cook I have ever known.

For a while this wasn’t as big a problem as it could be.  Although my metabolism had been slowing down, I was pretty active.  Being on the SWAT team was pretty demanding, and I had to stay in some semblance of shape, so even though I ate big, I burned a lot of it at the same time.  Also, at 6’3″, I can hide it pretty well.  This changed a bit when I retired from the team.  I ballooned to an all-time high of 260 pounds of unadulterated cellulose, and looked every bit like the chubby hubby that I was.

I had other outlets as well.  I am a very sensual guy.  I love taste, texture, beauty, scents.  I love trying new things.  I love learning.  So when I find something new that tastes great, smells great, and has nuance, I dive in.  Especially if it’s not something that a ton of people do.  I discovered craft beer and I discovered cigars.  Both are topics of endless discussion for me, I can talk for hours about either.  For the record, my buddy Matt makes the best beer I have tried; second is Founder’s Breakfast Stout or perhaps Great Divide’s Yeti Imperial Stouts.  Oh, man!  For cigars, my go to is always an Ashton, and specifically an Ashton Double Magnum, although I love all kinds of cigars at different times.  If you’re interested, go see Chris at Leaf Lover’s Tobbaconist in North East, PA for a great cigar.  And remember my advice.  If you can buy cigars and gasoline at the same location, don’t buy the cigars!!

Anyhow, along with Scuba diving, these were the outlets I used to “cope” with life’s little surprises.  I was a far cry from that twenty-one year old that thought he could handle everything.  Essentially, it looks like I can’t handle much of anything.  Or maybe life just kept throwing its little surprises until I was broken down.  Whatever, I was at a point that I needed help with coping.  But I didn’t like where I was.  That having been said, I think I need to clarify here.  As long as this post turns out to be, it is still a very abbreviated version of all this.  This entire process kind of evolved over the past twenty years or so, and I am condensing it here to a couple of thousand-ish words.  Also, it may look like I was just a total wreck.  Not so, but I had come to lean on tangibles, not on inner strength and God’s power.

So, here I was.  A failure at work, a failure at church, a failure with my family.  “Needing” food, scuba, beer, and cigars.  So what happened next?  Earlier this year I looked at a couple of photos taken of me, and man, I did not like what I saw.  This guy’s a fatty!  Beth and I both decided it was time, so we embarked on a weight loss and life style change.  Although I started at a lower weight than my all time high, since May, I have lost about thirty pounds with ten to go to my goal.  Beth has done even better.  I think we both look great, and the next step is to get back to the gym and get in shape.

Food’s gone as a crutch.

Beer has been assuming an increasingly anticipated portion of my life.  And I don’t mean nasty or cheap beer.  You folks that drink Bud lite or Coors, well, you have my pity.  Micros are the bomb!  So many different breweries, so many different styles, combinations of hops and malts, I could easily live in a Brewpub.  Wait.  Clark, what did you just say?  Did you hear yourself?

Beth pointed out to me a bit ago that I was consuming more beer than I had before.  She wasn’t yet alarmed exactly, but she was kind of concerned.  Her concern was justified.  Although in comparison to many I didn’t drink much at all, and although in comparison to Europeans I hardly drink anything, I was still using the beer as a crutch.  Clark, what are you doing?  Yep, I need to cut back.  And although I have no intention to cease, my beer consumption has hugely diminished.

Beer’s gone.  But I still have my last stronghold, I still have my cigars.

You can see what’s coming, right?  Hey, didn’t I already say that?

Many people would say this explains a great deal, but as a teen, I fell on my head a couple of times.  Looking back, I probably fractured my spine, but as I could get up and move, I never went to the hospital or even saw a doctor.  Fast forward four decades or so, and I now have two degenerative discs.  After several years of chiropractic therapy and numerous pain shots, I had my neck fused four months ago on two levels; C-5 to C-6, and C-6 to C-7.  The surgery went great, the chronic pain is gone, and the healing has been fine.  But.  My scuba season ended on the date of my surgery, and I probably won’t get back under water (except for assisting classes of new divers in the pool) until spring.

We went back to my surgeon last Monday.  After x-rays, he showed me that the higher level is about 99% healed; essentially completely healed.  The lower level, not as much.  He gave me a few restrictions, and said that he wasn’t concerned at all, and that the only way he would be concerned at all is if I was a smoker, which I am not.  I told him that I haven’t touched a cigarette in my life, but that I do have an occasional cigar.  At that point he kind of stared at me, hesitated a second, and said, “You need to stay away from those.”

Ok, I get it.  Nicotine restricts blood vessels and inhibits the uptake of oxygen, both needed for healing.  I won’t smoke a cigar for months.  But that was my last tangible support.  I am now officially left with nothing to fall back on, nothing to look forward to (And let’s be totally clear.  When I say that, I mean outside my marriage.  Our marriage is still great, and getting better every day!).  When he said that, I felt like my last pillar was knocked down, my bridge was collapsing.  I was bereft.  Even Beth felt bad for me, and she is not, shall we say, the biggest fan of my cigars.

So what do I do?  As I see it, I don’t have a lot of choices here.  My only choice is the one I should have made long ago.  My only choice is to depend on God’s grace; first, last, everywhere.  A few years ago I coined a phrase that I have tried to utilize.  I kind of forgot it, but I’m gonna pick it back up.  That phrase is this.  Let it go, it doesn’t belong to you.  So this is what I am left with, this is what I want to do, what I want to continually tell myself.  Let it go, it doesn’t belong to you.  I need to give it to God, let it go, live in Him.  Fill me Father.  Fill me with You.  You God.  All You.  Nothing but You.

I don’t know why it is necessary to be painted into a corner to see that one cannot “do this” on one’s own, but I would not be surprised to find that this is rather common.  Even if not, I often find that it is the case for me.  I’ve been cornered, and I have nothing that I can use to defend myself.  I figure I can go in one of three directions.  I can collapse into a puddle of emotional plasma, I can fall back on one of the less healthy things that I used to fall back on, or I can let go and look to the Author and Protector.  I think I’ll look to Jesus.

But boy do I want a cigar.  Let it go, Clark.  It doesn’t belong to you.  Yeah, I know…

Gun Control

Up to now, I have written little regarding politics, but recently comments have moved me to this post.  Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, and uber-millionaire, has made some comments about gun control.  In case you missed it, here it is:

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/mayor-bloomberg-comment-police-strike-congress-attention-gun-control-debate-level-drew-mixed-reactions-article-1.1120980

In brief (and I’m paraphrasing), he said that he just doesn’t understand why cops don’t go on strike until gun control laws are enacted, and guns taken away from, well, everybody.

First, it is completely reprehensible that Bloomberg, or anyone else, will politicize events like the Colorado theater shooting (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/21/james-holmes-colorado-shooting_n_1692381.html).  Disgusting.  Let it alone for a bit, let the victims’ families have some time, and get Holmes in jail in preparation for his execution.  At least give it a couple of weeks, then if you must, bring politics into it.  But no.  About ten point five seconds after the last victim hit the ground, Bloomberg comes out with his crap.

A bit of background, here.  I have been a career policeman for over thirty years, first in a small town, then as a cop in a larger city, and now I proudly serve as the Chief of Police at a small University in north western Pennsylvania.  While with the City of Erie, PA, I served as a street patrolman and as a detective.  I also was on the SWAT team and Honor Guard.  In detectives, I was promoted to Detective Sergeant and founded the Homicide division, was co-head of the Burglary division, and ended up working white-collar crimes (forgeries, frauds, bad checks).  I have worked with the FBI, with the U.S. Treasury, and with the Secret Service.  I realize this is not New York City, but I have seen and done a lot.  I have had friends die in the line of duty.  I have had friends shot and their careers shortened by gunmen who I am ashamed to say lived to see prison.  I have faced guns, knives, and angry women (just which is more deadly, I will not speculate).  I have investigated homicides by guns, knives, strangulation.  I have investigated sex crimes, child abuse, bank robberies, and granny’s lawnmower being taken from her garage.  I have seen children murdered by their parents, teens shot by boyfriends, and kids hit by trains.  And I have done what I can to help the families of those victims.  I once held the sister of a boy killed by a train.  Three young kids were on their way to their home in the projects when they decided to run across the tracks ahead of an oncoming train.  She and their friend made it.  Her brother did not, and she watched the train smack him and fling him to the side like so much tissue paper.  She clung to me, and would not let me go for over an hour.  In a hot, cramped little apartment I was her life-preserver, keeping her afloat.

I am a life-long hunter, from the earliest legal age, hunting small game, big game, whatever.  I have held guns, I own guns, and I know how to use guns.  Guns are pieces of steel and alloy engineered to accurately propel a small piece of metal for a distance.  In that regard, they are not much different from a piece of steel engineered and formed to strike a small piece of metal and accurately drive it into wood.  It is not the instrument that matters, it is the person wielding it, and what they do with it that makes the difference.  If a person utilizes an instrument, any instrument, in an improper way, it becomes a tool for evil.  It is not the instrument, it is the person using the instrument.  The differences are that a gun is much less personal (in that it can harm or kill from a distance), and it can harm or kill multiple victims with very little effort.

So, would “banning” guns, or even eliminating them, prevent homicide?  Clearly not, and I doubt that any thinking gun control advocate would say that.  What they would say, I believe, is that it would make such actions more difficult, and require a different dynamic to accomplish such a crime.  Perhaps that is a point.  But assume the banning of all guns for a moment.  Do you really think that will make it all that difficult to commit such an atrocity?  Consider the same type of movie theater as the recent atrocity in Aurora, Colorado.  People enjoying a movie, eating popcorn, relaxing.  Suddenly, multiple bombs go off, killing or maiming dozens of people, with not one gunshot heard.  Fantasy?  Consider:  while sitting here at my laptop, eating a sandwich, I timed myself.  It took less than a minute and a half to find over a million websites on making pipe bombs, and over one-hundred thousand websites on homemade explosives. Guns? We ain’t got no guns. We don’t need no guns! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ guns!  I can make a bunch of pipe bombs with fuses of various burning times, filled with explosive substances, and every piece of this killing machine purchased at my local hardware store.  So, should we ban household cleaners?  Iron pipe?  Nails?  Because with just a bit of planning and time, I can make enough material to kill a multitude of people.

It is a problem of human will and evil intent, not one of “bad” objects.  It is neutral objects being used for evil purposes, and it can be a ball bat, a car, a chainsaw, a knife, or a ball point pen.  Or a gun.

However, it isn’t just gun control that cranked me up about Bloomberg.  There are several things he said that made me want to vomit.  First, his comments were disgusting just on the face.  Cops on strike?  I have been a cop for thirty years, and I have never seen an issue that I thought would justify a general strike by cops.  When I pinned on the badge, I did so as a calling, with a sense of purpose.  Strike?  That is not even in my vocabulary.  Second, even if cops did think an issue worth going on strike, it is illegal in most states for police to do so.  I know this is so in Pennsylvania where I serve, and in New York where Bloomberg lives.  So Bloomberg was kind of showing support for an illegal action.

But you know what really offends me about Bloomberg’s statements?  It is something that as far as I know no one has touched on.  His statement was that he doesn’t understand why cops don’t just go on strike until gun control laws are enacted to protect them.  One of his problems is that the only cops he apparently knows are sycophants and libs who share his views.  I would be willing to bet that most cops, in fact the vast majority of cops, are rather conservative and thoroughly not in favor of gun control.  But this is not the offensive part.  The offensive part is that essentially he is saying, “The issue of gun control is so obvious.  Guns kill cops, and if we ban guns, cops won’t get killed.  Why are they so stupid that they can’t see this or act on this?”  And this ticks me off.  This falls under what I would characterize as “typical liberal thought.”  Now a disclaimer.  I have several liberal friends with whom I have had multiple challenging and enjoyable conversations.  With them there is mutual respect and room for disagreement, as well as passion and commitment.  So when I am discussing “typical liberal thought,” please do not confuse my “debate partners” with my statements.

Bloomberg, I think, likely believes cops to be basically brain-dead thugs, without the capability of deep thought.  Why, they can’t even understand simple issues like gun control!  Clearly they are unlikely to understand more complex issues.  And isn’t that what the liberal elite think of most of us?  African-Americans, Israel, guns, wealth, taxes, the role of government, fill in the blank.  I believe people like Bloomberg think most people simply too intellectually challenged to really understand what is best.

And I believe he shows that with his latest comments about cops.

Useful? Me? Interesting concept.

When I was very young, God always seemed near to me. It seemed to me that I just “knew” what I was supposed to do, where I was supposed to go, the actions I should take. I am not talking about spiritual maturity, I don’t claim to have had that (I don’t claim to have that still). I just mean I always felt close to God, in communion with Him. I had that sense through high school, college, into police work in the Borough of North East. I felt God’s calling to go to the City of Erie Police Department.

But somewhere along the line I lost that sense of God’s presence. I knew He was there, I never doubted that. It’s just that I somehow lost a sense of intimacy with Him; I couldn’t “hear” Him like I used to. And I missed that. Perhaps it was simply a child-like faith, and perhaps as time went on and I saw more and more of what the world can be like I became disillusioned and couldn’t hear as well as before. Whatever the case, I continued to walk in God’s ways as best I knew how, even though I haven’t been the world’s best witness.

For various reasons, I have felt myself a failure in business, at church, as a father. I have felt useless for a very long time.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was a very good day. We went into the barrio of the nearest town and set up in one of their local churches. It took a while, but we turned the chaos into something like order. I have worked with the medical team all week, keeping the people lined up and coming in to see the doctors (mostly) one family group at a time. It has been very rewarding, even though I have played a relatively small part in it. I’m no doctor, nurse, pharmacist. I’m a cop. I know how to establish and maintain order. I know how to use authority, and can do it with appropriate parts of humor and sternness (is that a word?).

Whatever, I was able to look around and watch the medical teams work. I watched the opticians and dentists work. I saw them helping people and I saw that they were able to do it in a relatively systematic way. And I was at least partly the reason for that. And I felt useful. And that I have not felt for a very long time. And I am so grateful to God for that. And I am so humbled to be here.

Gracias, mi Padre. Muchas gracias.

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