Friday, January 23, 2009

A little story

Okay, I've changed my mind. Sorry Dominique but I think I should get a break and not have to list more than 7 things a week. [ check my Tuesday blog] but to make up for it let me tell you a story of something that happened to me while I was a cop.

I was a rookie [any cop with five and less years on the job is a rookie in my book] when I was assigned to go to an elementary school. I met with the principal and he introduced me to a sliver of a 5th grader who was brought to the office by her teacher.

I remember she reminded me of a "whipped" dog that cowered in the corner of the kennel after being rescued by a cruel owner. The principal pointed out the marks on her legs. The red welts wrapping around the calves of her legs indicated they were put there by a belt. The principal told me she had two younger sisters and suggested I speak to them also. I ended up examining and documenting belt marks across all three sisters. The eldest explained her father would drink too much and get angry at them. Their mother was too scared to protect them.

I asked for a civilian police employee to transport the sisters to the department while I went to the house to look for the suspect and evidence. The mother explained the father was at work and then led me to the closet door where he kept the two inch wide leather belt hung specifically to beat the girls. I told her I was taking the girls and I would be back to speak to him. When I saw a flicker of relief and then a bit of panic cross her face I told her to call the police immediately if he tried to hurt her which she assured me he had not done in recent past.

Back at the department, the girls sat quietly in the Report Writing Room. They almost never looked up even though the cops coming in automatically knew why the girls would be there and tried to be friendly or goofy to coax a smile. Sodas and snacks were bought for them to munch on while waiting for Child Protective Services to locate a foster home. They called and said the girls could not be placed in a single home together for tonight but they would continue to look for a place that could do so. I chatted with them as they sat in the car for the ride trying to explain what was happening. The three sets of dark eyes just looked at me and when I finally dropped them off, I went back to the station wondering if they would understand I was trying to do something good for them.

I never went to court. CPS told me later the father fled back to Mexico to escape prosecution and the girls returned to the mother. I went back to the home but I later learned they had moved because without the father's income they could not longer live in the house. I wondered if they resented me for forcing their father to flee and subsequently force them to leave their home.

About ten years later, I was a Sergeant and a little fatter and sassier than my rookie photo because of all the paperwork I had to deal with as a patrol supervisor. I met another employee for lunch at a restaurant in town while on duty one day. We walked up to the host and the lovely young lady looked at me and asked, "Are you.... officer 'Toh-geema(sic)'?"

You see, when I had come to move into a house located within the city I work for, I learned I always ran the chance of people recognizing me for the wrong reason. I would be at the checkout line in the middle of the busy shift of a grocery store in my shorts and t-shirt, no make-up just from the gym sweaty and stinky and inevitably, some one said, "HEY! You're the cop who gave the the ticket, arrested my brother, towed my car...." you name it, they made sure I and everyone within ear shot knew that this stinky, sweaty, holey t-shirt and flip flop wearing woman was a cop. I would slink out of there with my bread and Diet Dr. Pepper hoping no one would see me jump in my car and try to memorize what it looked like so they could vandalize it when I parked it somewhere else.

So back to the host. Even my friend was looking at me and back to the host wondering if she should just go to the table and wait in case someone wanted to tell me how what I had done out of duty ruined (their, their mother's , friend's cousin's ) life.

Suddenly with the menus whizzing by my head the hostess flung her arms around me in a hug and she said, "It is you!" She proceeded to tell me she was the oldest sister of the three girls I took away from the elementary school years ago. Things were hard but so much better since their dad left out of fear of being arrested. She told me she was doing well as well as her sisters and described how they had boyfriends and doing all the normals things teenagers do.

Moments like these are very rare. Most people never get to see if what they did with good intentions ever sets things in motion for the better. I was blessed with this event but there are thousands of actions and inactions ( not giving a ticket or arresting someone, buying a homeless guy a meal) that I will never know if it made a difference. So I guess what I'm trying to say is, don't do things because of what you might get out of it, just do it because it's the right thing to do. Even something as small as picking up litter in the neighborhood can make a difference. Wouldn't it be so much better if EVERYONE tried to do something nice for someone else everyday? HUGS to you all.

17 comments:

Edward Burton said...

What a sweet and wonderful story, Sheila - thank you for sharing it with us.

Madd Sketch said...

lol I wasn't sure if i could read that story cause of my attention span lol. But then i got so focused when you had dad abuser in the story lol. My dad abused me when i was a child in the Philippines. But he straightened up when we got here in Canada. This story was very captivating, I was very glad that the girls turned out great and that they actually were great full. I would say its a testament to your character! Thanx for that story!

Carol Schiff Studio said...

I just don't know what to say to you Sheila. You continue to amaze with your life stories and you upbeat personality. So I will just say thank you, for all that you and people like you have done and continue to do. I spent 6 years as a volunteer Guardian ad Litum and I found that for every sad, miserable story, there was an angel somewhere. Thanks for telling us about the angels!

artbyakiko said...

What a wonderful story! I'm glad to hear about the happy ending of the story of three sisters. I still think you should write a book. :)

dominique eichi said...

Your story definitively makes up for the 7 things. I appreciated reading it. It's really nice when you hear these testimonies for that is what gives us the drive to keep going in spite of difficult work or hard times. Thank you Sheila for sharing your life with us and for prompting us to reach out to others.
Blessings to you my friend.

Paintings by Irit Bourla said...

High 5 to Sheila. What a wonderful story.
Thanks for sharing with us.

Hellenne Vermillion said...

Wow...this is really nice! The universe is shining on you.

Camille LaRue Olsen said...

Sheila, thanks for that story and for your advice. Also, your offers of hugs remind me of something good my sister-in-law does. She's a 2nd grade teacher and every day of every year she hugs each and every one of those kids as they walk through the door. She said, "Some of them never GET hugs."

I'm so glad you saved those little girls from that awful life. The smaller home was the beginning of a clean start for them and feeling empowered. So wonderful. (Hugs!) :)

Paula Villanova said...

What a great message...you're so right...we really should do things for the simple reason that they might be the right thing to do...not always so easy...I'm sure your many years of service made a positive difference to more people than you could know. Glad you can spend some time with your art now!

Carrrie Jacobson said...

Sheila, what an amazing story. It really moved me; thank you so much for sharing! I could see the moment as if I were there, too, your writing is so vivid.

Michelle Burnett said...

What a beautiful, moving story Sheila! Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. My husband is a police officer so I've heard similar stories dealing with all the negative things going on out in the world that most people are unaware of and how undervalued police are.

I'm sure you've made a positive impact on more people than you know and you continue to do so through your blog and art. Hugs!

Rob Carey said...

Thanks for sharing that story. Sometimes you get to see the end of the story, and sometimes it's a happy ending. I remember having to report parents when I taught school in LA county- not fun to do, but it's the best thing.

Erika Nelson said...

Sheila I've been wanting to read this since I saw that cute pic! I have double vision so it takes me a while to read and that becomes work for me, so sometimes I take a while. Anyway, I love this story. Wish you were a cop in when I was in high school in San Francisco when I tried to turn my step father in for beating my Mom and holding me, her and grandma hostages for a night. Basically they just sent me back home with him after they questioned him and they never called back to check on me even after I told them (Juvenile Dpet officers), if anything happened to me, they can take credit for it. A follow up phone call would have been nice for this scared high school kid. But you're just super special ;) HUGS!

Tom Pohlman said...

You are a wonderful human being Sheila Tajima! Thank you for sharing. Not to make light of these poor girls situation- But it sucked to be a kid growing up in the 70's, 60's, 50's, etc... when that was just the way discipline was doled-out at home/school (this is what I tell my seven year old). My "favorite" line to hear was always "This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you". Yeah- right!!!

jennifer woodburn said...

Wow, what an amazing story. Thank you for sharing this. You are so right about the fact that everyone should do whatever they can to make the world a better place. I am really enjoying checking out your blog. You are making some wonderful art! Thanks for visiting my site.

Annie Salness said...

Sheila, I really appreciate you sharing this story. What a rare privilege for you to get to hear the rest of the story! My husband has taught and coached in public schools for over 30 years and often wonders about former students and athletes. I'm sure that you have many stories and hope that you will continue to share with us!

Linda K. Nickles said...

Hi Sheila, I have just discovered your blog, and am very touched by your story . . . only one of many, I'm sure. Years ago I volunteered as a court advocate for victims of domestic violence. To this day, I still think about the children involved in those cases. You manage to relate the painful stories of many through your beautiful artwork. Thank you for sharing.