Jeff was training for the Olympics. He was on the verge of becoming an Olympian runner when unforeseen circumstances derailed his dream. An unexpected injury permanently dashed any hopes of Olympic competition. He was still able to run, but he was not in a position to compete at that level. I cannot imagine the disappointment he felt.
His life plans shifted in an entirely different direction. He decided to go into law enforcement. I don’t know how many agencies he applied with, but I do know that a record was broken during the physical agility test when he went through the application process with the Granbury Police Department. Training officers are accustomed to administering various kinds of physical fitness tests to applicants that are in excellent condition, but I think even they were surprised when Jeff took to the track for the running part of the exam.
Last night I had an opportunity to ride with Jeff as he patrolled on the evening shift. If I am going to ride out with Jeff, I have to catch him during the summer months. During the school year he is the department’s DARE officer. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) You can find him teaching in a classroom full of 5th graders, or in the school cafeteria mentoring impressionable kids. Being in DARE is Jeff’s choice. He is an excellent street cop as well.
Jeff has actually gone way beyond the call of duty as a DARE officer. He spends his afternoons at the high school volunteering as a track coach. And yes he gets out and runs with the kids! On Friday nights the students who have had him in DARE have an opportunity to interact with him at the skating rink. He has committed his Friday nights to pre-teens and teens in that setting.
Something Jeff said to me last night caught my attention. He informed me that you don’t have to be special in order to be effective with kids that have a troubled home life. He told me that you simply have to make them feel that really are special, because at home they feel like they are “trash.” They feel like they are “in the way.” Of course my response is: It does not hurt to be a trained runner! Kids are drawn to Jeff like a magnet, because of his background. Or maybe they are drawn to him because they can sense that he really cares…Whatever the case I am so grateful that he is there. One of these nights in a few years I will ride out with a young officer, and that person will tell me that they chose to get into law enforcement because of a man they met at their school named Jeff Hastings. And I will grin and remember a conversation I had late one night with Jeff about trash and kids who are in the way….