This story takes us back to my senior year of high school. Let me start by saying, I was a good kid. Academically and socially, I was well liked and respected by both teachers and peers and didn’t cause too much trouble other than the occasional field party (being from North Louisiana). I was at a Christmas gathering with my gal friends and left, driving, to pile in a friend's car for yet another holiday gathering. I was running late for the carpool, therefore excessively speeding through a neighborhood, and got pulled over by a policeman.
I won’t give all the details here in case I run for office someday. Long story short, the policeman had me in hand cuffs in the back of his cop car and my life was pretty much flashing before my eyes. Getting into a college of choice, pledging a sorority, finding a job, and getting accepted into graduate school, all seemed grim, now having this haunting blemish on my record. I kept calm the entire time I was in the back of the car while the policeman ran my license and that of my two friends who were riding with me while grappling present reality. Since we were well-behaved kids, there was nothing interesting on our records.
After what seemed like hours, the policeman graciously allowed me to call my mother to come pick us up. Not sure whether he was feeling generous due to the holiday season or he knew how badly this would screw up my future, but when he said, “I’ll let you call your mom,” I was flooded with relief.
The next day, when I became grounded for life, not only did I feel terrible about myself but also extremely thankful. If this man had not extended his grace toward me, my future would have looked much different from that point forward. Since I’m better with words, I wrote him a letter the day following the incident, on Christmas Eve 2005 at 18 years old. In my letter, I thanked him for teaching me a lesson and let him know that I was glad he pulled me over and that he also bestowed his thoughtfulness upon me that night too. When it was time to mail the note, I sought his address with no avail from several avenues. I even reached out to his cousin that I knew from my English class. Since he wasn’t listed and the police department doesn’t hand out personal staff information to random people, I could not get my hands on his address.
I did not send the letter.
College came around and every year when I returned home for Christmas break, the memory of that night and the letter came to the forefront of my brain. After a couple of years, I rewrote the note but still never sent it.
Life continues, and I eventually go to Thailand and upon my return, I made the decision that I HAVE to write this letter. The year overseas helped me grow and put many aspects of life into perspective and sending this letter of thanks after continually thinking about it for 6 years was now a responsibility. I had plenty of time to reflect on the incident as well as accomplish so much. Without his grace, maybe none of it would have been possible. The letter could be more meaningful now then simply writing it after the incident when he felt like perhaps my mom had coerced me to compose a note of gratitude.
I mentioned to my mother that I finally needed to get this off my chest and rewrite a relevant note and send to the policeman that I met 6 years ago. By coincidence (P.S. I don’t believe in coincidences), my mother attended a funeral within days of me declaring my goal and ran into the police officer’s parents. Got to love small town communities! My mom explained to his parents the whole situation and they were thrilled to offer his address to my mom. At this point, I have his address written on a piece of paper, sitting on my dresser, staring me in the face. There’s no turning back now!
Less than 2 weeks later, my mother came to me, sat me down, and told me she had unfortunate news. She told me this policeman had committed suicide. A man I barely knew, but made such an impact in my life through a simple gesture, and his death hit me hard. Not that my actions would have changed the terrible outcome, but I can’t help but think that if he knew from someone that what he was doing was making a difference in this world, maybe he wouldn’t have taken his own life. I never took the opportunity to follow through and thank him for what he did for me and so many others in our community.
Moral of the story is I never followed through. It was a simple and easy task, but sometimes those are the things we don’t ever get to because it seems like it can wait.
Now when I have something on my mind that I want to do or accomplish, I just do it.
I’ll never forget that night, every minute is a vivid image replayed in my brain. I’ll never forget the grace this man bestowed upon me in a moment of poor judgement. I’ll never forget the feeling I felt when I discovered that someone I barely knew took his own life.
Follow through with what you say you’re going to do, even if you fail, even if takes a couple times to get it going or started, even if you fall flat on your face, even if it makes you feel stupid. The feeling of regret from not taking the chance at all is much worse than failing.
Go after what you set for yourself and FOLLOW THROUGH.