Sunday, February 3, 2013

Decisions, Not Experiences, Make Us Who We Are

Reprinted with permission from Steve Schlicht, a law enforcement professional and author:

When I was trying to save some cash for college by working the nightshift at the Majik Market on Big Ridge and Gorenflo Road back in the early eighties, a masked gunman entered the store at 0130 hours and demanded the money.

I fully complied, giving him the 18 dollars from the cash register till, the marked money in case of robbery, and three whole dollars from my very own wallet.

He took it all and then walked around the counter and pointed the silver revolver directly at my face, while staring me down for what seemed like an eternity.

We both were there, looking into each other’s eyes, while lightning lit up the parking lot, and a torrential rain began pouring down.

He pressed the barrel of the gun to my forehead and said to me - “Do…NOT…call the police.“

Then, as suddenly as he entered the store, he left it - the door bell ringing behind him as he ran off into the storm south bound to an awaiting car which fled west past Taranto’s Grocery.

Back then, there was no in store video surveillance recording or even an office phone, so I had to lock the door and then call from the beat up payphone next to the cooler.

About 45 minutes later, a uniformed Jackson County Deputy and an on-call detective arrived to investigate the armed robbery, only to end the “investigation” by accusing me of stealing the money myself, a whopping 18 dollars, and filing a false police report to cover it up.

The Deputy and the older, gray haired and tired detective, talked to my boss about their hypothesis - based upon no empirical evidence at all - and their conclusions, and then left the store to return to the comfort of their homes.

I looked at my manager and wholeheartedly denied the totally bullshit allegations.

To her credit, she listened to my story (aka “the truth”) and then told me I was fired for suspicion of internal theft.

So, I drove my 1972 VW Sunbug home that night in the violent thunderstorm, back to my last paid up month at the Lighthouse Apartments on Porter Avenue, with no job and no more money to my name, at 20 years of age.

I tossed my keys on the table, and I left my apartment, and walked straight down to the beach, and into the water during the full fury of the storm as I considered all of the facts that brought me to that point in time.

I had my life, to be sure, the masked gunman never pulled the trigger.

That was a good thing.

The men in uniform, the detective wearing the badge sworn to uphold the truth, destroyed my old life, and there I remained in the stormy night looking around at all that was present around me.

For hours.

I have and will never forget that moment. It all remains as real to me as this very moment y’all are reading right now.

And within that spell, the then and there a time ago, I honestly found the answer to the greatest mystery of all and chose that I would battle evil from that point on.



I met Steve online when I lived briefly in the Biloxi area.  He's a law enforcement officer with a long-term and wide range of experiences in that field, and the fact that he puts his life on the line every day for the safety of people like me commands my respect.  We've held many discussions, usually checking in on the same side of the issues at hand, in both Facebook and forum posts. 

This particular post of his struck me to my core.  I've talked over and over again about how we don't have to be slaves to our life experiences, and that sometimes that which doesn't kill us really does make us stronger.  Steve's story is a stark example of that.  Here we have someone who encountered our criminal justice system in a horrible manner yet who went on to not only become a member of it, but even flourished in it. 

Bottom line--this story reinforces the idea that you're not just the sum total of your experiences.  Sometimes adversity brings us down, and we have to acknowledge that.  But sometimes adversity becomes the sand inside the oyster's shell that creates a beautiful pearl.  

It's all in how we react to those experiences, isn't it?



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