To Face Unafraid the Plans That We Made

Those words written in 1934 by Richard B. Smith form the lyrics of one of the most prolific holiday songs, Winter Wonderland. The song has been recorded over 200 times, but the author of those thought-provoking lyrics never witnessed that success. He wrote the song as a poem while suffering from tuberculosis and died a year later at 34 years old. His thoughts to “face unafraid the plans that he made” held specific meaning. He had the courage to make plans in the face of a debilitating illness with a grim prognosis. So, especially for those of you who are healthy and free of limitations, what are the plans that you’ve made?

LEOs have different plans than most people. When they will resolve to get and stay in better shape, it’s to ensure they can catch a fleeing felon, pull a partner or stranger from danger, or survive a deadly encounter and come home at the end of their shift. When they resolve to be a better person, it often means NOT treating others as they would treat them- in response to cursing, screaming, and anger, they resolve to respond with a calm and professional tone while disconnecting enough to stay above the fray and remaining engaged enough to still care about the outcome of the encounter. When they commit to bringing their meals to work and not to eat out, it may be to avoid the risk of food tampering seen in so many cities or to avoid the embarrassment of a restaurant employee refusing to serve them because of the oath they took to protect strangers.

In the face of the challenges LEOs have faced, especially in the past few years, it is important to keep your eyes focused on the horizon. What are your plans for the next three to five years? In that time, you can finish that degree you always wanted to complete. You can lose the weight you’ve accumulated from stress-induced eating. You can take the training you’ve always wanted even if you have to take vacation and pay for the tuition. You can also fix the relationship that needs work, surround yourself with people who enhance your life, and move on from the boat anchors people insist on carrying around to make others feel better. You deserve to be happy, enjoy your job, and expect to be treated fairly at home and at work.

Lest I sound more like a relationship advisor than an attorney and counselor at law, I bring up these points because we represent awesome people-heroes and leaders in their communities. However, many times they are in a bind not because of a conscious decision to do the wrong thing, but because of their failure to take time to put themselves first. They are so focused on helping others, working that extra shift because the department is shorthanded, working another part-time job to provide material objects for someone else, or foregoing their dreams because it is hard to dream of the future when you’re waiting for the next shoe to drop.

I don’t claim to have all the answers and if I did, you should all be very afraid! However, here are some ideas for LEO plans for 2018. First, write down your goals. Share the ones that involve others and get their buy-in. For the truly personal goals, commit to trusting yourself to holding the person in the mirror accountable for achieving them just as you would encourage your best friend. Second, focus down from the 30,000 foot level. You cannot get where you need to be if you never see the finish line. Third, keep a long perspective on your efforts. Think, what will matter most in five, ten, or twenty years-another part-time job or a degree? Put another way, if you were looking back to this date ten years from now, what decisions would make you proud and happy?

Finally, plan for the events that you hope will never occur. Get a will and an advanced directive. Join the Fraternal Order of Police and pay for the FOP Legal Defense Plan to protect you if your split-second decision is second guessed in front of a grand jury. Get your uninsured motorist (UM) coverage as high as you can afford as you have a better chance of being in a wreck with a DUI driver with little or no car insurance than being shot.

You are some of the best people our country and communities have to offer. Be proud of the work you do. On December 31, 2018, thousands of strangers will be alive because you and your brothers and sisters chose to take an oath and do an often thankless job. Make your plans and face them unafraid. You’ve earned that right. Stay safe.

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