Be the Good You Want to See In The World

14570430_10154728863962384_4945550604691041982_n1I’ve been afraid of blogging ever since the election. There has been such hate between Hillary and Trump supporters. There is fear.

I had a blog ready to go about wearing a safety pin to signal that I would stand up for the vulnerable.

The essence of the piece was that others would see me as an ally regardless of who they were. I also emphasized that I had friends, high school classmates, and neighbors who voted for President-elect Trump. The election hadn’t changed my feelings for them. More than anything, I was thankful we lived in a country where we could vote.

My WordSister, Ellen, read the blog (we edit each other’s work prior to posting) and she said that it didn’t speak of the fear that people had. I reread my blog and it was true. My children who are Latinos hadn’t spoken of any fear. Yet, others around me have told me of instances where their children, both young and adult, have.

The proportion of Richfield residents who speak a language other than English at home (26.1%) is higher than the overall percentage for Minnesota (10.9%). 34.7% of students in the Richfield schools speak Spanish at home. 3.5% speak Somali. I decided to enrich my piece by asking a Latino friend to tell me how the Richfield community was feeling.

Instead of editing the blog, life happened. Both of us, especially my friend, was caught up in the planning of a funeral for the two Richfield students who were murdered by their dad. Being present and available to our children and others was paramount to the election results.

14440642_10210326956788272_3891113084642446291_n1Juan Jose, Crystel, and two of their classmates helped carry the white caskets into the church. They huddled with their friends and watched Luis and his sister, Nahily’s life roll on the wide screen, which of course included all of them from preschool to eighth grade. My Latino friend worked hours on this video and cried for many more hours for the loss of these two children who she knew so well. During the service, Crystel and other RDLS and RMS students sang the Prayer of St. Francis that they had practiced all week. At the cemetery, Juan and some of his friends shoveled dirt onto the caskets. Other friends were too distraught and couldn’t bear to do it. After we returned to the church Jody and I helped serve the food that was donated. Not once during this day did I think or worry about President-elect Trump.

The following week at work, I planned a coworker’s funeral. He died alone. He had been estranged from his two children for over 20 years. His work was his family. Even so, he kept the people he had worked with for over 30 years at arm’s length. He was proud. He was private. I called the police to do a welfare check when I didn’t receive an expected call from him. They broke into his house. He had succumbed to illness. The biggest fear of his coworkers was that his body would go unclaimed. I told them that wouldn’t happen. We would claim him. We would give him a funeral. We would bury him. I contacted the medical claims examiner and asked if his children who were 24 and 26 were notified. They were. I told the claims examiner to tell the children that his work family were here for them and would do whatever was needed.

A supervisor and I met his children at his house. We led the way in, pointed to the framed photos on the wall that were them as toddlers. Talked about how his dad never forgot his children. We gave his children a tour of the plant. Showed them his office, and his tool box. Opening the box would reveal, again, their pictures as toddlers.

Together, we held a funeral and reception for their dad.

Not once during this time did I wonder or question who voted for President-elect Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Instead of a safety pin, my smile, my hello, and my service to others will let people know that I’m an ally.

I’ll be the good I want to see in the world–you can count on me to keep showing up for the hard stuff.

Regardless of who you voted for.

Going to the Dogs: On being a Decoy

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’ve done some crazy stuff before but volunteering as a decoy for police dogs ranks close to the top. At first, as with most new adventures the idea of being a decoy was thrilling. I was very aware of the nearing day, checking my calendar, reading the email over and over, making sure that I had the right time and the proper clothing. Long sleeve shirt, pants, boots.

My impetus for being a decoy was simply that I had never done it before and it sounded exciting. How often are you given the opportunity to be dog bait? Exactly. Within a minute of seeing the text asking for volunteers I responded with a firm, “Yes”. Apparently, no one else had this strong feeling because I was the only volunteer from our police reserve unit.

Sometimes when you really want something and you also don’t really want the same thing it doesn’t happen. I half expected this training event to be cancelled.

It wasn’t.

And sometimes you try to imagine what this new adventure will look like.

Visions of running across a field of flowers with a dog, maybe a Labrador, bounding after me and then taking a gentle leap pulling me to the ground was my image.

Ignorance is bliss fits right in here.

Reality was a vacant building, darkness, and me lying on a floor in the corner of an empty room with a sheet of black plastic covering me.

There would be numerous police dogs with a K-9 police officer attempting to locate me, one by one. When does numerous become many? Let’s say when the count is over five. There would be many police dogs, each with their own K-9 police officer taking turns locating me one by one.

Aloneness is being in a dark vacant building waiting for a dog to attack. You know it’s coming. You’re warned, “Come out or I’ll send my dog in after you. You WILL get bit.” In case you didn’t hear it the first time you’re warned again. “You WILL get bit. Come out NOW.”

But and this is a big BUT, the role of a decoy is not to come out. The role of a decoy is to be still in the dark, under the tarp, until the dog latches onto you.

This leaves you time to think. And, you think, I know I’m going to get bit. Some place on my body. Maybe it will be my arm or my leg, could be my back or my shoulder.

I wasn’t too worried. I was suited up in a bite suit with a helmet on.

The advertisement for the Ultra Kimono Training Bite Suit says that high back and chest bites can be taken with confidence.

I can’t say that I was confident but I wasn’t too scared. I was squished in the corner like the Michelen man facing the wall. I felt as protected as one can feel when a police dog is on the prowl and you are the target.

Lying under the tarp, breathing shallow, I didn’t stir.

I heard the dog entering the room. It wasn’t the tap, tap of his nails that I heard first but his heavy, rapid breathing. He came closer. The dog barked a “He’s here boss!” which sounds like 2 or 3 loud snaps. The animal began moving the plastic around with his paws trying to find me with the K-9 police officer urging him on. “Get him! Get a piece of him! Find him!”

I didn’t move.

The dog latched onto my helmet and started pulling me out of the plastic. I played the next part perfectly, “Get your dog off me! Get your dog off me!” I screamed. “Get em off!”

With every dog attack my fear increased exponentially. Each police dog didn’t just want a piece of me they wanted my head. “He’s got my helmet! He’s got my helmet! He’s pulling it off! Get your dog off me!”

After one attack I took my helmet off. “Is that blood?” I asked looking down at the droplets on the floor. I felt the top of my head which felt tender but didn’t come away bloody. “Oh, that’s from the dog,” I said. It was the dog’s saliva I was seeing on the floor.

By this time, I was scared like one should be when being attacked by a police dog. Almost all the dogs went for my head no matter how they tried to position me on the floor. The bite suit was so thick and big that I couldn’t get my sleeve up to hold my helmet on and I was sure that the dogs were going to pop me like a cork. A K-9 police officer even tried to expose my back side so the dogs would go for it. Nada. They wanted Beth’s head.

I acted as a decoy in two other scenarios with multiple police dogs – standing in a corner down a long, long corridor and standing in a corner with a tarp over me. This time the dogs went for my leg. I learned that you shake your leg rapidly after the dog latches on so it doesn’t re-bite you. This is important to know if you’re a bad guy.

Having become aware of my vulnerability as a human being I started to question my soundness of mind. In-between dogs I had plenty of time to think about that. I thought maybe I wouldn’t need to do this activity again. Perhaps being a decoy one time was enough.

And, when I had the opportunity to call it a night, I sat down as quick as I could to get that bite suit off and hustled out of the building.

But, a day has gone by. And I think I just might do it again. You don’t often get the opportunity to feel that afraid and test your mettle. I have learned from this experience. Don’t go prone. Volunteer for the standing position.