This week I am working on a lecture that I am scheduled to deliver in Little Rock, Arkansas in March regarding stress in law enforcement. I am to teach this core training course at the annual Regional Training Seminar for the International Conference of Police Chaplains. I will delve briefly into the concept of post-shooting trauma, but my primary focus will be on the day to day stress of being in law enforcement.
One of the principles that I will stress to the group of chaplains taking this course as a part of their basic certification is the importance of being excellent listeners. The average police officer sees a lot of human suffering in a relatively short period of time. They are often the first ones to arrive when a child has been abused or an elderly person robbed. Traumatic events are are part of their daily existence.
Many spouses of police officers don’t want to hear about when their husband or wife comes home after a shift. The officer’s friends don’t have a clue what it is like on the streets, so it can be difficult for them to empathize. The chaplain is often lifeline in this regard.
When it comes to the occurrence of traumatic events, I have learned a valuable lesson in recent years. Police officers are not the only ones carrying the pain of past trauma with them. I seem to consistently meet people who are carrying around some kind traumatic event with them as a constant companion. In many cases, they have never shared it with anyone.
I will try to do a good job training a group of new chaplains in Little Rock in March, because I think they can make a difference in the lives of the police officers they serve. But I am convinced that all of us can make a difference in the lives of those who have been traumatized on some level.
The lady whose toddler was run over by a vehicle still needs someone to calmly and kindly listen to her story decades after the event took place. The person who has been abused definitely needs a confidant who can listen without passing judgment. Adults who lost their parents at a young age need people to hear the story of their loss. The list could go on and on…
It would serve all of us well in 2011 to be quick to listen and slow to speak. There are a lot of hurting people out there. There are stories that need to be told. What can you do during the course of the upcoming year to bring healing and heart restoration to those you know well? I will do extensive research for the class I am going to teach, but the best preparation I can do is to simply get out there and reach out to those I need to serve with a listening ear.