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The Scariest Duty – Part 1

Chaplain Bill Wolfe / Llano County Sheriff's Department

Hello, and welcome back to the Chaplain’s Corner. Hang on a second while I turn the A/C down a bit. Tad warm this time of year. I’ve had this title rattling around in my head for some time now, and I think now is perhaps the time to get it out so we can look at it.

I heard that…Tom over there in SWAT just said, “I ain’t scared of nothin’.” Maybe. We’ll see about that as we get further along here. I know an officer (who will remain nameless – and it isn’t me) that gets unnerved by driving down a dirt road when there are rattlesnakes on it, even though they can’t possibly hurt him. There are all sorts of levels of fear, and what’s scary for some may not bother others at all. Who am I then, you might well be asking, to talk about scariest duty; I’ve never been in a shootout, I’ve never been in a raid on a booby-trapped meth lab, I’ve never been to Iraq. Aahh, but then we’ve already been friends long enough for you to figure out that I’m not necessarily talking about on-the-job scenarios.

Ok, what makes something scary? Well, there is some component of the scenario that triggers a fear response. That component can be as diverse as the person facing it. It could be the subject(s) involved, the location, the time, the availability of backup. But I would suggest that two of the major things are the lack of confidence in the ability to control the situation, and the fear of the unknown – the inability to know all the variables in the situation and the unpredictability of the outcome. Or, to put it another way, the fear of the unknown is a fear of what impact the resolution of the event will have on me physically and/or mentally: Will it mess with my “status quo”? Will it rock my boat or sink it?

Facing the scary scenario and plowing through it is what some call taking a step (or leap) of faith. A person may well come out the other side a changed individual, but it’s getting it done that makes heroes of all sorts of men and women. Since this is July, when we celebrated Independence Day, I want to just take the rest of our time to honor those men who got that job done. We’ll look at some other scary things next month.

July 4, 1776. The men Continental Congress took a huge leap into the unknown. Thomas Jefferson had stepped to the plate to compose the first draft of the Declaration of Independence. The Congress undertook to revise it. We look back at it from this point in history and see it as fait accompli. We recognize those that pulled this off as great patriots, but I doubt we actually recognize that this was possibly the scariest duty these men could perform. I would think that the fear of the unknown would be heavy upon them…could they pull this off? Could they control the situation? I think it safe to say that once they got the ball rolling, they could but hang on for the ride and hope they ended up where they wanted to be. They could not be certain of what would be the outcome. They could be certain of what would happen to them should they fail. Ben Franklin said of the undertaking: “We must all hang together, or assuredly we’ll all hang separately.” John Hancock decided win, loose or draw, he was in it all the way and signed with a flourish and of a size that could be clearly read. He had no doubt that, should they fail, someone would be coming after him. Brave men one and all. No question. Heroes and patriots. But they wouldn’t have been human if there weren’t private times of being afraid of not being able to pull it off.

Ability to control the situation, and the fear of the unknown – I know a lot of you have faced situations that turn most people into Jell-O and come out on top, even if not unscathed. You are heroes…plain and simple. And you have my admiration.

I must stop for now. Come back around next “shift” and we’ll explore a different type of “scary.”

Until then: Blessings to you and yours.

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