End of Watch – Part 1

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As Patrolman Carpenter entered the westbound on-ramp (see: Day Shift – December 27, 1973), Dad noticed a light blue 1964 Chevrolet Impala coupe pulled over on the far right shoulder. As Dad pulled up behind the 1964 Chevrolet Impala, Dad switched on his overhead red emergency lights and parked his patrol car (CSP Car #181) right behind the stalled Impala. Apparently not noticing anything that concerned him, Dad again did not notify the CSP Dispatcher of the stop. Dad was following CSP standard operating procedures for checking with the occupants of a disabled vehicle to determine if any assistance was needed. This was the same routine Patrolman Carpenter had followed a hundred times before.

Before Patrolman Carpenter even exited his patrol car, Dad would have noted the exhaust in the crisp cold air coming from the still idling 1964 Chevrolet Impala. With bits of rust showing through the faded paint along the trim and other spots of the nine-year-old Chevy, the well-used 1964 Impala had the same grungy appearance of the young occupants. The driver was a young black male with medium Afro hairstyle hair, a slight build, and was wearing a dark coat (possibly sheepskin). The passenger was a young white male (possibly Hispanic) with long blonde hair (possibly light brown) which came down to his shoulders and an overall disheveled appearance.

It was now about 9:40 AM when Patrolman Carpenter exited his patrol car, approaching the 1964 Impala on the driver’s on his side of the car. After reaching the driver, Dad started asking the driver questions and did not appear to be overly concerned as the passenger slipped out of the passenger door. Undeterred by the inherent risk, Dad continued to talk to the driver, as the passenger started walking to the back of the Impala. Even when it placed him in harms way, Dad was inordinately confident in his ability to safely resolve potentially dangerous situations with his persuasive words and composed demeanor.


According to his close friend and fellow CSP patrolman Kenneth Sniff, Patrolman Carpenter was a “very quiet guy, not shy, not aggressive. You had to push him very far before he’d react.”[1]

Patrolman Carpenter had a reputation of remaining calm and focused under pressure, along with the innate ability to deescalate potentially deadly situations simply by the way he talked to people. Though generally reserved, when Dad encountered dangerous circumstances he was inclined to approach the threat head-on, even if it placed him in harms way. This knack of knowing how to talk to people, had allowed Dad to maintain control even when Dad had placed himself at risk. As a result, Dad had managed to make a number of felony arrests without ever removing his service weapon throughout his career. In spite of his normally unpretentious disposition, Dad was quite proud of this particular accomplishment.

The first instance Patrolman Carpenter demonstrated his distinctive aptitude occurred soon after Dad had been cleared to patrol without a training officer. On this particular occasion, an angry driver had stopped on a highway near Broomfield, exited his vehicle, and was threatening to fire a shotgun he was waving around in his hands. The first CSP patrolman on scene had prudently requested backup, and Dad was the first to respond. As Dad arrived on scene, traffic had come to a halt due to the man’s angry erratic behavior. Without touching his service weapon, Dad began talking to the armed man as Dad left the cover of his patrol car and approached the armed man. After talking for a few minutes, Dad told the man “don’t you think you should just give me that gun” and the man handed Dad the shotgun without further incident.

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Unfortunately for Patrolman Carpenter, the passenger of the 1964 Impala was not in the frame of mind to listen to calming words of reason. After reaching the back of the Impala, the passenger walking between the back of the Impala and the front of the patrol car, and continued walking along the driver’s side of the car. When the passenger reached Dad, there was a brief scuffle in which the suspects were able to gain control of Dad’s service weapon, a .357 caliber Colt Python revolver. Yet Dad somehow did not panic and apparently maintained his composure, as he walked back to his patrol car along with his armed kidnapers.

Several witnesses observed these critical moments. Despite the availability of a telephone at the convenience store at the intersection, none of the witnesses contacted the authorities to report what they had just observed. Several of these witnesses would later come forward and admit they simply had not want to get involved.

After reaching CSP Car #181, the armed kidnappers directed Patrolman Carpenter to get in the driver’s seat and the armed kidnapers both entered the back seat of the patrol car from the roadside of the four-door patrol car. Just a few minutes after 9:40 AM, Dad switched off his overhead emergency lights, calmly pulled CSP Car #181 back into traffic, and merged into the westbound traffic heading towards Boulder. Desperate to escape the criminal predicament they now found themselves, the armed kidnapers tried to sort out some kind of plan that would allow them to escape unscathed.


Around 10:00 AM, a Westminster Police Officer noticed the same disabled light blue 1964 Chevrolet Impala coupe pulled over on the shoulder of the on the Boulder Turnpike westbound on-ramp that led from Broadway. The Westminster Police Officer pulled up behind the empty the still idling Impala and noted the keys were still in the ignition. Despite a quick canvas of the area by the police officer, there were no obvious indications of what had just transpired. Moreover, not a single witness contacted the officer to advise him of what they had observed a mere twenty minutes earlier at this very sight.

Subsequent investigation disclosed the 1964 Chevrolet Impala coupe had been stolen earlier that morning from Mariposa Street and W. 14th Avenue near downtown Denver. In addition, there were indications illegal drugs had been involved. This crime fit the pattern of several other car thefts in the area believe to have been conducted by two of three young (17-22) male associates (one black and two Hispanics). Along with having access to firearms, the suspects were reported to use marijuana, acid, and other illegal drugs when committing their crimes. The suspects were reputed to steal vehicles, including carjacking with a firearm, and then driving the stolen cars to Boulder to obtain more illegal drugs.


Quickly deciding to return to their familiar neighborhoods in Denver, after traveling about two miles on the Boulder Turnpike the kidnapers had Patrolman Carpenter take the first exit for N. Pecos Street. After taking the exit, Dad was directed to cross under the Boulder Turnpike and returning to the Boulder Turnpike in the opposite direction. Now headed away from Boulder back to Denver, Dad calmly maneuvered Car#181 through traffic down the Boulder Turnpike. When they reached the Valley Highway, Dad merged into the southbound lanes of I-25 heading into the heart of Denver.

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Patrolman Carpenter remained composed as he followed the directions of his kidnapers hoping he could ride out this perilous scenario until he had an opportunity to escape or was released. Following the directions of two distressed kidnappers, Dad was careful not to endanger any of the other motorists as he negotiated his way through the treacherous interchange of I-25 and Interstate 70 (I-70), known locally as the “mouse trap”. At this interchange, Dad exited the Valley Highway and merged in the eastbound lanes of I-70 heading away from downtown Denver in the direction of Denver’s Stapleton International Airport.

Interstate 70 (I-70) is the primary thoroughfare for traffic traveling east-west through the Denver metro area. Approximately five miles east of the I-25 and I-70 interchange, was Denver’s Stapleton International Airport. Stapleton International Airport was the primary Denver Airport until it was replaced in 1995 by Denver International Airport.

As Patrolman Carpenter navigated through traffic, several witnesses noticed that the passengers in the patrol car were not acting in a manner customary of individuals transported in police cars. Instead of sitting stoically still with their backs straight against the back seat and equal distance from each other, the passengers were hunched down and moving around in the back seat of the patrol car. This behavior stuck out to a number of drivers and their passengers as they witnessed Dad driving the suspects. Yet, since the patrolman did not outwardly appear distressed and driving normally no one felt there was anything nefarious taking place.

Just before 10:00 AM, the CSP Dispatcher received a report of an accident at 58th Avenue and the Valley Highway. As the accident was in the assigned patrol area for Patrolman Carpenter, the CSP Dispatcher made began attempting to contact Car #181. Though Dad would ordinarily respond promptly to dispatch calls when he was in his regularly assigned patrol car (#131), Dad was known to be slow responding when he patrolling in another car. Consequently, it did not raise any concerns that Dad was not responding to the first few calls from the CSP dispatcher.

After a ten second delay from the last call for Car #181 from the CSP Dispatcher at 10:03 AM, Patrolman Carpenter finally responded back that he was at “Havana and I-70”. The CSP Dispatcher was puzzled by this response. Not only was Havana Street and I-70 over eight miles outside Patrolman Carpenter’s assigned patrol area, the CSP rarely patrolled this section of I-70 under an agreement with the Denver Police Department (DPD).

The jurisdiction of the sections of the interstate system that were within the city limits of Denver was primarily the responsibility of the Denver Police Department (DPD). As this section of I-70 (Havana and I-70) was within the Denver City limits, CSP would not actively patrol this section of the interstate and typically would not cross through this section unless it was in response to a specific assignment.

A bit perplexed, the CSP Dispatcher responded “10-4”, and logically asked Patrolman Carpenter, “What have you got there?”. With two armed kidnapers holding a weapon on him, Dad calmly responded “nothing” hoping the dispatcher picked up on the clue he had just conveyed. Although still somewhat unsettled by Car #181’s location, the CSP Dispatcher responded “10-4” and asked if Dad could respond to an accident at 58th and the Valley Highway. Dad somewhat tersely only responded “10-4”, without the customary confirmation that he was responding to the accident. After approximately twenty minutes of inconceivable trepidation, Dad showed the first signs of distress.

As a Division of the Colorado Department of Public Safety, one of the secondary functions of the CSP was to provide road condition reports. Therefore, the CSP Dispatcher would routinely contact patrol cars approximately every two hours or so and request a “10-13” for a road and weather report.

At 10:04 AM, the CSP Dispatcher again attempted to contact Patrolman Carpenter to request a routine weather check, “Car 181, 10-13 North”. After waiting forty-five seconds for a response, the CSP Dispatcher again called “Car 181”. Ten seconds later, Dad oddly did not respond with the weather report and instead tried to alert the dispatcher something was wrong by responding again “I-70 and Havana”. Sensing something was not right, the CSP Dispatcher again asked, “What’s 10-13 North”. This time Dad responded, “Cloudy and Dry”.

The CSP Dispatcher responded, “10-4”, as he started getting that feeling deep in his gut that something was wrong with Car #181. As the CSP Dispatcher subconsciously tried to piece together the information as to what could be wrong, he began to think of what options might be available. In the meantime, realizing Patrolman Carpenter had alerted the authorities of their current location, the kidnappers had Dad take the next exit off of I-70 at Peoria Street. Instead of patrolling the I-70 corridor as Dad had last reported, Car #181 had changed course and was entering one of the worst crime ridden Denver neighborhoods. A neighborhood the two armed kidnapers were all too familiar with (see: End of Watch – Part 2).

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 New International Version (NIV)

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”  – 2 Timothy 1:7 New International Version (NIV)

God Bless!

[1] The Denver Post,. “Youth Questioned in Slay Case”. December 28, 1973: Page 3. Print.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Concerns Of Police Survivors

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President George H W. Bush singled out the “good works” of Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.) during his address at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Ceremony in 1992. The story of Concerns of Police Survivors epitomizes the essence of what is to show mercy and take action as demonstrated by the parable of the Good Samaritan. While serving on the Fraternal Order of Police Auxiliary as the National Secretary, Suzie Sawyer suggested they sponsor an annual National Memorial Service in Washington, DC, for the law enforcement officers that had been killed in the Line-of-Duty the prior year. Although she was successful in getting her idea approved and organized, Suzie Sawyer was disappointed that only about 125 people attended the first service to hear the names read out aloud of the officers killed in the Line-of Duty the previous year.

To increase the attendance and exposure of the National Memorial Service, in 1983 Suzie Sawyer arranged to have the National Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Board Meeting scheduled along with an evening reception for the FOP the evening before the Memorial Service. In addition to the FOP members, ten police widows who had come to hear their husband’s name read at the Memorial Service came to the reception. The FOP reception was more of a celebration party atmosphere and was not appropriate for the widows mourning their loss. As a result, Suzie Sawyer offered to take the ten police widows to the FOP Lodge in Washington, DC, where they could talk.

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As each widow shared her story, Suzie Sawyer became aware how similar each of their stories were. How the respective departments had not taken into account the widow’s wishes when planning the funerals. Worst of all, how they had been ostracized from their own tight-knit families of blue after their husband’s death, as it simply hit to close to home. After hours of talking, the widows felt better and asked Suzie if they could continue meeting. Even though she understood how no one in the law enforcement community felt comfortable talking about Line-of Duty deaths, Suzie Sawyer saw these women needed help, how important this was to them, so she stayed in touch with them over the next several months.

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As did the Good Samaritan, Suzie Sawyer saw a need and stopped to take the time to help these ten widows in their time of distress. As a result, the very next year C.O.P.S. was started to serve the needs of the surviving families of law enforcement officers that had been killed in the Line-of-Duty. Under the direction of Suzie Sawyer, C.O.P.S. would grow from the 110 original members in 1984 to over 30,000 members in the next 30 years. Additionally, C.O.P.S. developed a handbook that is one of the primary authorities on how public safety agencies should meet the support needs of the surviving families following a line-of-duty death. This is the lesson Jesus wanted us to understand from the parable of the Good Samaritan. This is what can happen when we stop and help a person in need.

Suzie Sawyer would tell you that she never would have seen herself becoming involved in an advocacy organization that helped victims overcome their loss to become survivors. After all, her husband was not killed in the Line-of-Duty, he lived to retire from the force long before she would retire as the Director of C.O.P.S. Becoming the pivotal force that would spawn an organization that would change the landscape of how law enforcement agencies interacted with and supported the surviving family members and members of their own agencies may not have been her goal, but it would prove to be the path Suzy Sawyer was meant to take.

Looking back over my life I am astounded how God weaves the path of our lives to cross paths with specific individuals to give us the opportunity to prepare for the purpose He has for us. First I was ask to help a family by Dr. Roger Solomon[1] (see: Responding to the Call), a Police Psychologist that would be at the forefront of trauma and grief counseling and a strong supporter of C.O.P.S. A few years later another leader in his field and important supporter of C.O.P.S., FBI Special Agent James “Jim” Horn[2], would convince me to speak at his C.O.P.S. “Forgiveness” workshops ( see: Introduction to Police Week and Forgiveness). These amazing contacts, in conjunction with the service of my mom with C.O.P.S. National Board, would led to a call from Suzie Sawyer to see if I would be the first child of an officer killed in the Line-of-Duty to serve on the C.O.P.S. National Board.

Each step of this journey, I had been an extremely reluctant volunteer. In addition to trying to be a good husband and father, I was focused on making a difference with my career and as a volunteer coach at a local high school. Helping others heal by discussing the memories I felt I had moved on from was never my idea. Yet as so often is the case, God had a different plan. As a result my life kept intersecting with this incredible organization along with some of the most impactful, passionate people I would ever be blessed to know. In Jeremiah 29:11 the Lord declares, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”[3] I continue to be astounded how God had a plan to use me in this way, a way I would never have imagined, a way I unknowingly was uniquely qualified.

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Prior to my involvement with C.O.P.S., I had learned to become a survivor out of necessity. I was simply too young and too caught up in trying to get my life on track to understand what had happened, not to mention how it had happened. Fortunately, God would press and challenge me to learn the true deeper meaning of what it meant to be a survivor and what it had taken to get me there. It was through this process that I learned the true appreciation for all the selfless sacrifices made by all the Good Samaritans that I had been bless with during my young life.

During the years God had led my life to intersect with C.O.P.S. I had the great privilege to witness firsthand the incredible phenomena that takes place when caring people share their own personal experiences and time with people that are hurting. It was extraordinary to witness how this sharing gave comfort, promoted healing, and lead victims to become survivors. It simply is not often that one can witness the entire process play out in front of their eyes. People suffering from the tragic losses of loved ones receiving healing, learning to become survivors as they receive comfort from survivors that had themselves been comforted and had become survivors in the previous years.

At the same time I was astonished to learn the amount of time, dedication, and sacrifice, that people associated with C.O.P.S. put forth to make this all happen. It was not just Suzie Sawyer, the board members, the mental heath professionals, the returning survivors, or all the other volunteers. It was the sum of all their efforts, the love and passion they all demonstrated working for one common purpose, that made this phenomena possible. Yet, everyone one at C.O.P.S. would tell you they did not feel as they were making a sacrifice, never regretted the time, as it was one most rewarding opportunities of their lives.

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My experience with C.O.P.S. profoundly changed my life. Not only did I learn what it meant to be a survivor, I learned how to help others to become a survivor. I learned what it meant to be a Good Samaritan, what it took to be a Good Samaritan, and best of all I learned how rewarding it was to be a Good Samaritan. Above all, I experienced what it truly meant to be a Christian, to engage my Christian faith and put into action what the words of the Bible were teaching. I witnessed what it was meant to do “good works”.

In the Epistle of James, we are taught by Jesus brother James that if we are just reading the words written in Bible we are missing the point. As James advocates in James 1:22-25:

“Do not merely listen to the word…Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.”[4]

Similarly, James maintains in James 2:24-26 that it take more than just faith to become what Jesus is asking of us. As James maintains, faith holds no meaning if Christians do not put into action what Jesus has taught them:

“A man becomes right with God by what he does and not by faith only…The body is dead when there is no spirit in it. It is the same with faith. Faith is dead when nothing is done.”[5]

In James 1:27, James illustrates why he was also known as James the Just when he purposefully identifies two specific examples of the acts, or “good works”, that represent the pure message of Christ. In these examples, James contends that to be a person of the Christian faith one must care for the orphans and the widows in this world:

“Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”[6]

Just as the Good Samaritan did not need to practice the Jewish faith to exhibit the mercy Jesus (a Jewish Rabbi) taught, people do not need to be a Christian to put into action the principles taught by Christ centuries ago. Organizations such as C.O.P.S. along with numerous non-Christians all over the world employ these same Christian principles every day to do “good works”, making a tremendously positive difference in this world. The message we find in James does not suggest you have to be a believer in Christ to do apply these principles and do “good works”.

In the Epistle of James, the brother of Christ was giving notice to the followers of Jesus that there was more to being a Christian than believing in Christ. James was reminding believers that Jesus called of his followers to engage in their faith by acting upon the principles He was teaching. To demonstrate to the world the difference Christians can make by embracing the principles Jesus was teaching, Christians need to put into practice what they believe, just as Jesus had centuries before.

In Philippians 2:3-5, the Apostle Paul stressed in his letter to the Philippians this same need to selfless place the need of others before our needs just as Christ Jesus had:

“Don’t do anything for selfish purposes, but with humility think of others as better than yourselves. Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others. Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus…”[7]

This was the difference Dad made by how he lived and lost his life. This was the type of difference I was trying to make with my life. Working in law enforcement we quickly learn that our actions will always be under a microscope, that any mistake we make will be magnified, sometimes unfairly, due to the public nature of our vocation. In much the same way, it is our actions, or more often our inaction, that are noticed most of by nonbelievers. People watch Christians to see if they practice what they claim to believe.

My experience with C.O.P.S. reinforced in me what it meant to embrace my Christian faith and to live my life as an living example of what I believed. It reminded me not to be afraid of making mistakes as I tried to do the right thing and make a difference. C.O.P.S. taught me I was able to have the greatest impact if I would listen to God and take action when given the opportunity just like the Good Samaritan. It is our actions as Christians that have the greatest impact upon the people we come in contact with in this world as the world watches to see if Christians put into practice the messages Jesus taught.

God bless!

 

[1] Dr. Roger Solomon is a psychologist and psychotherapist specializing in the areas of trauma and grief. He is on the Senior Faculty of the EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) Institute. Dr. Solomon has provided clinical services and training to the FBI, Secret Service, U.S. State Department, Diplomatic Security, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, U.S. Department of Justice, and numerous state and local law enforcement organizations. Dr Solomon has planned critical incident programs, provided training for peer support teams and has provided direct services following such tragedies as Hurricane Katrina, September 11 terrorist attacks, the loss of the Shuttle Columbia, and the Oklahoma City Bombing (www.rogermsolomon.com).

[2] James M. Horn was a Special Agent with the FBI, was one of the original members of the FBI Behavioral Science Unit, and served on the FBI’s first SWAT Team. Special Agent Horn was an adjunct professor in psychology and criminology at the University of Virginia and also initiated and developed the FBI Chaplains Program and the FBI’s Advanced Peer Support Program. He has worked with the C.O.P.S. organization since it’s inception.

[3] New International Version (NIV).

[4] New International Version (NIV).

[5] New Living Translation (NLT).

[6] New Living Translation (NLT).

[7] Common English Bible (CEB)

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Why We Need Good Samaritans

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In my life, God has repeatedly demonstrated to me how important it is that everyone knows that each of us can help another person. In “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” Jesus clearly reveals the significance of the actions any of us can make if we are willing to take the time, step outside our own comfort zones and put forth personal effort to provide aid to another. Opportunities to help others happens all the time if we simply pay attention to what is happening all around us.

One such opportunity took place on August 21, 2016, when an officer in Yoba City (California) responded to a vehicle accident. When the officer contacted the men that were attempting to flee the scene of the accident, he was viciously attacked by both men in the physical struggle that ensued. As the officer was fighting for his life, one of the assailants gained control of the officer’s baton and “began striking the officer in the head with it”. It was at this moment a bystander intervened, disregarding his own safety to do the right thing. The Good Samaritan pushed the assailant off of the officer and fought with him until additional officers were able to respond.[1]

Another example occurred in Cleveland (Ohio) on May 6, 2013. On this days neighbors responded to the cries of a woman from a house she had been held hostage in for ten years. After these Good Samaritans helped free this woman and her daughter from the house, the police would find two more women that had been abducted and held in the home since 2002 and 2004, respectively. During their captivity these women had been repeatedly raped and beaten by their abductor. If these Good Samaritans had not responded to the cries for help on that fateful day, not only may these women and the little girl continued to be tormented, their abductor would have remained free to victimize other young women.

It does not take great risks to be a Good Samaritan, as even a simple act of kindness can make all the difference in the life of someone else. Today I read another story where a family with a young child was stranded on side of a busy road when their vehicle broke down. The family remained in their vehicle all night with the hood up and hazards on without anyone stopping to offer assistance or even calling 9-1-1. It would be early the next morning before a courtesy patrol vehicle would stop and offer them assistance. This frightening ordeal could have easily ended tragically. Sadly, no one traveling the road was willing to take the time to help, they were either too busy to notice or too afraid to get involved.

There are simply so many amazing opportunity each of us has to get involved and make an important difference in the life of another. It is this point that I passionately hope that I am able to convey. It is far too often that we fail to act on this lesson emphasized by Jesus in “The Parable of the Good Samaritan”. Whether we decide it is not our place to get involved or we simply believe we are to busy to stop and help, time and again people in our society ignore the opportunities to get involved. Instead they simply make the choice to leave it up to someone else to address the problem.

It is in Luke 10:25-37, that Jesus reminds us first of “The Most Important Commandment” followed by the “The Parable of the Good Samaritan” to emphasize the importance for each of us to to get involved when given the opportunity. As so often is the case, this message is as applicable to non-Christians as it is to Christians:

The Most Important Commandment:

One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?” 

The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!” 

The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Parable of the Good Samaritan:

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.

“By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. 

“Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’ 

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

In his book “Studies in the Sermon of the Mount”, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones states:

“You remember the parable of the Good Samaritan told by our Lord in response to the question ‘who is my neighbor?’ The Jews traditionally hated the Samaritians and were their bitter enemies. However, our Lord tells us in the parable that when the Jew was attacked by thieves and robbers on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem, several Jews passed by and did not help him. But the Samaritain, the traditional enemy, went across the road and cared for him and did everything for him. That is loving our neighbour and our enemy. Who is my neighbour? Any man who is in need, any man who is down through sin or anything else. We must help him, whether he is a Jew or a Samaritain. Love your neighbour, even if it means loving your enemy. ‘Do good to them that hate you.’ And our Lord, of course, not only taught it, but He did it” [2]

The Apostle Paul echoes this theme in Romans 15:1-7:

 Romans 15:1-7: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up…For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope…May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”[3]

After Dad was executed in the Line-of-Duty, there were witnesses that came forward and admitted they had observed two men struggle with dad after he had stopped to help them. The witnesses did not initially do anything as they did not want to get involved. As in the case in Yoba City, Dad may have lived if these witnesses immediately called the police. Yet, they will never know if they could have made a difference. What they do know is that they did nothing and as the result a patrolman was brutally murdered.

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Conversely, Good Samaritans like my uncle, my high school counselor, and many others would prove to be critical to my ability to overcoming both the cold blooded murder of my dad as well as the events that took place when I was a freshman in high school. It was the willingness of these Good Samaritans to take time out of their busy lives to provide the support I needed which helped me become a survivor. Without this support, I would never have found my way back to the road I was meant to travel. The impact these Good Samaritans and my dad had on my life, along with the inaction of the witnesses of the abduction of my dad, would have a profound influence on the choices I would make the rest of my life.

As a result, I decided after I returned from Alaska, I never again wanted to come that close to quitting or giving into my fears again. I may make some mistakes along the way, which I have many times, yet I never again wanted to be afraid to face my fears. You just never know when you might do something that has a dramatic impact on someone’s life, including your own. You might even save a life. Doing nothing, especially if it is due to fear, has not been a option in my life ever since I was able to come to terms with my greatest fear, the fear I faced as a freshman in high school, when I failed to face my peers after becoming overwhelmed with years of repressed emotions.

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This approach to life is permeated with the potential of risk, yet I face the same risks if I choose to do nothing. In the film, The Patriot, there is a decisive moment when the main character Benjamin Martin states, “I have done nothing. And for that I am ashamed.”[4] It is this sentiment that I strive to avoid as it gives me a sick feeling in my gut whenever I think of the consequences of doing nothing. I believe God gives us opportunities by placing us in situations for a reason, and I believe that reason is seldom ever to do nothing. As a result, I have chosen to do my best to live my life and to tell my story with the hope it will do more good than harm.

God bless!

 

[1] “Yuba City Officer Beaten While Investigating Accident”. Chicoer.com. N.p., 2016. Web. 26 Oct. 2016.

[2] D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “Studies in the Sermon of the Mount”, Wm B Eerdmans Publishing Company 1976, pg 272.

[3] New International Version (NIV).

[4] The Patriot is a 2000 American historical fiction war film directed by Roland Emmerich, written by Robert Rodat, and starring Mel Gibson, Chris Cooper, Heath Ledger, and Jason Isaacs. The film depicts the fictional patriotic character of Benjamin Martin which was a composite figure loosely based on American Revolutionary War heroes Andrew Pickens, Francis Marion, Daniel Morgan and Thomas Sumter.

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

 

Understanding Myself

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The American author and poet, Henry David Thoreau, claimed “Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” I had certainly reached a point that I was lost, yet it would take years for me to come to understand how I had come to be lost. Although I did not know it at the time, I now can see that by leaving me no other option God was guiding me back to the path He had meant for me to take all along. It was at this point I began the process of “understanding myself” as I slowly came to realize the tenacity I had been born with would allow me to obtain my full potential or lead to my own demise. The choice was mine, I could make my own path or I could accept the guidance and unconditional love Christ had promised.

As a teenage boy without a father, Mom felt that it was important that I spend as much time with her brother as possible. My uncle and dad had been like brothers, and our families had spent a great deal of time together. My uncle’s oldest son was only a year younger than I was and our bond would develop over time to be more like brothers than cousins. My uncle was the perfect role model for me, perfect for anyone, and to this day I realize how fortunate I was to have my uncle make himself available to me, to be my Good Samaritan! Just as God would always be there for me, I have come to recognize that I could always rely on my uncle to be there for me.

A short time before dad was murdered, my uncle received a promotion and relocated his family to Southeastern Alaska. By my freshman year, I had spent a portion of several summers in Alaska with my uncle and his family. There is nothing in the world I would rather do than to be on a boat fishing for salmon with my uncle in Alaska. For me Alaska was a huge wondrous playground. While fishing I could watch bald eagles, humpback whales, and pods of orca (killer whales). On land as I hiked along paths and trails, I could watch salmon spawning in the streams, watch ice calving (breaking and falling) from a glacier, pick wild berries, and even get to see a bear from time to time. Amazingly, my cousin and I once even backpacked to an island at low tide so my uncle could pick us up with his boat at high tide the next day. Alaska was simply one of the most beautiful places I had ever experienced. I loved Alaska, loved to fish, and most of all loved spending time with my uncle and his family!

I do not remember it, yet Mom has reminded me that after I had stopped going to school during my freshman year (see blog posts: Avoiding the Darkness and the The Road Less Traveled) my uncle flew down from Alaska just to see if he could help me work things out so I could get back in school. I can only assume I have repressed this memory too as it simply has proven to be too painful for me to fully acknowledge this failure to my uncle.

After talking to me, my uncle thought if he drove me to school I would be fine. As my uncle was driving me to school it became quite clear to him that I was not ready to return to school so he changed course. Instead of driving me to school, my uncle drove around with me for several hours in one of the nearby scenic national parks. Although I have no recollection of what was said, as I look back on this today I have no doubt God was involved as this would prove to be another strand in the unbreakable bond of the faith God has instilled between my uncle and me. Just as God had proven to me that He was always there that day I threw the rock, I have come to know I can always count on my uncle to be there for me in good times, tough times, and all the times in between.

Just as the profit Isaiah said in Isaiah 41:10:

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”[1]

As my mom gently pressed me to return to school, I realized the only way to convince her I could handle things myself was for me to start taking my first steps, retracing my way back down the road I had traveled. This gentle pressure forced me to overcome my fear of another misstep that would again lead into this same darkness I had narrowly avoided. Thus, I carefully started retracing my first few steps back down the road I had traveled. Interestingly, my reaction was similar to an example provided in the study “Men, Masculinity, And The Contexts Of Help Seeking” conducted by Dr. Addis and Dr. Mahalik:

“…if the same man is unable to solve the problem on his own, he may choose to see a counselor and characterize his choice as one of taking control or not letting the problem beat him. In doing so, he simultaneously supports the norm of emotional control while seeking help and constructing masculinity as a competition with one’s emotional self.”[2]

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In my case, I agreed to work with my school academic counselor that graciously offered to helped me determine the correspondence courses I was required to complete to move forward to my sophomore year in high school. It was in this way “I” would take the first steps to prove to my mom that I was “taking control” and “not letting the problem beat” me. Ironically, it would be the same stubborn resolve that led me down the wrong road in the first place that would push me to take the first few steps back in the right direction. It would be these first few steps that would help me avoid dropping out of school. All thanks to the loving push from my mom, as she provided her loving patient support.

As I meticulously worked to remain in school, my uncle had received another promotion, so that following summer he was to report to his new post in Washington, DC. As a result, arrangements were made to send me up to Alaska to spend one last summer with my uncle under the pretext that he needed someone to ride along with him as he drove his truck with his camper to Colorado to store it before proceeding on to his new post. As Alaska was a world away from whatever had happened at my school, I was more than willing to go and spend a last few weeks with my uncle in Alaska and then keep him company as he drove his camper down to Colorado.

Arriving in Alaska did not magically resolve all the issues I was facing. I still could not see the road I was meant to take. As I moved back down the road I was never meant to take, I was moving slow and deliberately, taking small careful steps to avoid another misstep. Honestly, I did not even know what I was looking for, as I still did not understand where I had made the mistakes as I was still trying to do things on my own. Nonetheless, it was a relief to be in a place that was a world away from my school and my peers. Although I know my uncle and aunt knew I had had trouble with school, I do not recall anyone saying a word about it. As it had been during my other summer trips, I was treated as if I was another son, just another member of the family, with chores just like my cousin, and the same unconditional love as if I was one of their own.

Alaska was far from home and would provide me the time and space essential for me to continue to work my way back to the road I was meant to be on. It was the loving support I received from my uncle and his family that would be key to God guiding me back to a road that did not lead into the darkness. The key for me was removing me from the situation as it allowed me to see life without the cloud of the embarrassment I felt from not being able to stand up to my fears. As I realized I was being treated just as I had been before, just like any other member of the family, my vision began to clear. I started to gain a new fresh perspective, I began to realized my life had not been ruined, I was still loved as much after my perceived failure as I had been before.

With the gift of time, I can now look back and see what God was doing in my life. I was still working my way through the fog that clouds our judgment when we have taken the wrong road, the road that leads to the evil trap that lies in the darkness. The fog is there to block out the light, to prevent us from seeing we are not alone, that all is not lost, that there is still hope. Hope is the light that cuts through the fog, that helps us realize we are not alone, that there are always other options. I now understand that Jesus was the source of my hope as He remained at my side patiently waiting for me to find my way back to Him. Although I had never lost my faith, I had turned away from Christ which would make my journey back to the road I was meant to take all the more difficult. As I tenaciously refused to ask for any help, choosing instead to make it on my own, I still had not fully understood the message of Christ.

As it asserts in the Gospel of John 15:4-8:

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit…”[3]

Thankfully, God had afforded me the opportunity, time, and the support to learn a critical lesson in life. I had been forced to face the embarrassment of my failure to face my fear in an extremely public manner that include all of my friends and family. Yet, God had instilled in me the intuition to stop before I stepped into the evil trap that was hidden in the darkness down the road I was traveling. Even though I was not focused on Him at the time, God remained with me and helped me rediscover the endless inner strength my positive memories of dad God had preserved for me. With a push from my mom, God had helped me harness the intense desire never to let anything beat me, including the fierce resolve never to come that close to quitting anything again in my life. Through my uncle, God revealed and clarified the essence of unconditional love God had given me as represented by the loving support I would always have from family.

God bless!

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[1] New Living Translation (NLT)

[2] Addis, Michael E., and James R. Mahalik. 2003. “Men, Masculinity, And The Contexts Of Help Seeking.”. American Psychologist 58 (1): 5-14. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.58.1.5.

[3] New International Version (NIV).

© C. Carpenter and Surviving December, 2017. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.