Turning the tables (and opening heart and minds)
Val Van Brocklin
Years ago, when I first began working as an adjunct instructor at a DPS Academy, I used to get up at zero dark thirty to join the recruits on their physical training run before instructing them on criminal law subjects. I thought it would serve my purposes in class to prove myself outside of class.
On one such run, cadence was led by a young, all-bone-muscle-and-sinew, ex-Army Ranger.
Cadence has a two-fold purpose.
• To physically regulate respiration
I ran and sounded off after the ex-Army Ranger recruit, this cadence:
[WARNING: The following contains adult themes of sex and violence.]
When the girls want excitement and danger,
Mysteriously, I was un-infused with team spirit. As was every female recruit — both of them.
I could have gotten my shorts in a twist, taken offense, even made some kind of complaint. Instead, the next morning I stepped out of formation.
“Sir, permission to lead cadence, Sir.”
“Granted,” the Corporal replied.
As we started off double-time, I called out:
I’m an Amazon with wildcat blood;
As the last voice died, I waited in a silence punctuated by heavy footfalls and heavier breathing. Then there rose a deep bass, testosterone-laced, forty-voiced reply, “Hoo-ah! Ma’am. Hoo-ah!”
I don’t run at 0430 with the recruits anymore. Age has relieved me of that particular need to prove myself. But the lessons that ex-Army Ranger taught me live on:
1.) Give people the benefit of the doubt. Don’t be quick to assume the worst. That young Ranger had put his life on the line for my freedoms. Don’t join The Society of the Perpetually Offended. They’ve got enough members.
The lesson for me was figure out how to connect with those recruits in a way that didn’t alienate them but instead opened their hearts and minds to some new visions of teamwork and camaraderie. I think we all learned something that day.