Turning the tables (and opening heart and minds)

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 
•    To ignite teamwork and camaraderie

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, 
Dream all night of sex with a Ranger. 
A Ranger’s what Granny wanted to be, 
But you can’t be a Ranger if you squat when you pee. 
If I die in guts and blood, 
Bury me with a six pack of Bud. 
Tell my son I did my best.
Pin my Ranger wings on his chest. 

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; 
I nursed on whiskey you can keep your Bud. 
My sex drive is rollin’ thunder; 
I don’t peak at nineteen and then go under. 
When I was a girl my Granny told me, 
Girl ain’t nothin’ you can’t be. 
I’m not the fastest — I’m not the strongest. 
Heart determines who lasts the longest. 
I got a heart that knows no end, 
Call on me when you need a friend. 
I may need you to get over the wall, 
‘Cuz it’s all for one and one for all. 
We’re all on the hero’s quest, 
Gonna help each other be our best. 

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. 
2.)    Faced with a challenge, don’t ask, “Why me?”  That won’t get you any useful answers. Instead, ask, “What’s the lesson here for me?  

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.  

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