Situational Awareness

by Dawn Brown

Situational Awareness

I’ve been tired this week.  All in favor of blaming winter say ‘aye’.  While it’s true that it’s dark when I wake up and dark when I get home from work, ultimately, I think that re-entry is hard…even if you love your job.  The time off during the holidays spoils you.  Cuddly blankets by the fire and predictable Hallmark movies on 24/7 where Nick (his name is Nick most of the time) always wins the girls heart in the end–you know this because he finally kisses her and the most beautiful white snowflakes begin to fall.  Add all that to staying up late, sleeping in later, decadent food, and the frivolity that extra time provides for friends and family and what do you get?  You get entering 2019 tired.  Or in my husband’s case, entering 2019 re-tired.

I know what you’re thinking–how can someone so young and vivacious as me possibly be married to someone old enough to retire?  LOL!  Probably the same way I’m old enough to have a son with a beard!  Somewhere along the way, we blinked, and the years caught up with us. Beware, it happens when you least expect it. As most of you know, my husband is a police officer; so, by default, we have always been a police family.  That might not mean much to you, but those of us who live this life know what that means.  Let me give you a glimpse.

It means that many Christmas mornings, Jerry was out patrolling the streets or helping with holiday child custody issues while our own little ones were opening their presents from Santa.  It means we always loaded up a plate of Thanksgiving goodness that he could warm up in the microwave when he finally did make it home; but a place at our table that day was rarely needed.  It means you get used to the phone ringing in the middle of the night and you hope and pray for the officers at risk, and the community in peril, as he leaves the comfort of his warm bed in exchange for a Kevlar vest and worn work boots.  It also could mean the dreaded knock on the door when he’s been in a police chase, a car accident, or in the emergency room at MGH.  Once it meant urgently calling him while he was in training at the Police Academy when I went into labor with our son, Dalton.

Don’t get me wrong, Jerry has loved his career.  Being a police officer has always been in his blood, which is why he achieved both an Associate’s Degree in Law Enforcement and a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice.  That’s also why it means he’s unlocked literally hundreds of cars whose owners moved a bit too quickly, leaving their keys or their kids in the vehicle.  It means always facing the door when you’re seated at any restaurant, in case you need to react fast to help another citizen. It also means stopping traffic on Highway 9 to make way for Momma Duck leading her baby ducklings to a new watering hole.  And, it also means letting trick-or-treaters sit in your squad car at Halloween and telling them that the only rule is that they should definitely push all the buttons!  That’s probably why it also means echoes of “Officer Brown, Officer Brown” every time we go anywhere in Grant County. Police officers don’t lead an anonymous life, they are on, even when they are technically off duty.

So, where I simply came into 2019 a bit tired, I can easily see why they call it re-tired.  After a 20-year career serving and protecting our community, I’m sure he was tired quite some time ago—so, this must be the encore of tired, also known as re-tired.

This means that our family is entering a new chapter.  A newly retired hubs embarking on a second career.  A senior in college getting ready to graduate and officially get off the Brown Family payroll.  And, a recently promoted solider who will be back from Afghanistan as soon as next month.  (For you frequent readers, that also means I’ll be eating bread once again very soon!  Insert excited squeal here!)  But, aren’t we all entering a new chapter?  It’s a new year after all.  Perhaps you’re entering this year with one less loved one.  Or a new little one.  Maybe you’re now an empty nester.  Or maybe you recently had a wedding and your family has grown.  Change happens.  Status quo isn’t real.  Either you are planning for the future or you’re managing the decline.  And, inaction is actually a form of action.  Shelly Jones likes to call it being proactively inactive.  Like ‘fetch’ in Mean Girls, she’s trying to make ‘proactive inactivity’ a thing! 😊 And, while being proactively inactive over the holidays, watching mindless television, and eating buckeyes and Chex Mix is acceptable for a short period of time, in the long run, you’ve got to rejoin the real world.  Since our boys were little, riding to school in the back seat of the police car (picture that!), my husband has referred to this action as situational awareness—or as Dalton used to say it, sij-u-a-tion-al awareness.  (We didn’t correct him, it was way too cute.)

In police work, situational awareness means they always have to have the presence of mind to scan and review what’s going on around them and react accordingly.  As a retiring police officer, it’s just part of Jerry’s DNA to do this when he drives. I call it ‘looking left’, whereas I tend to look straight ahead—at the actual road!  My learning style has always been one of steadfast focus, looking ahead, and eyeing the horizon.  But, there’s something to be said for sij-u-a-tion-al awareness and ‘looking left’.  Scanning the landscape, paying attention to the needs of others, helping when necessary, encouraging someone along the way, and maybe even just enjoying the trip you’re taking instead of merely the destination.

Don’t you find it a bit weird that we dedicate the task of serving and protecting solely to police officers?  Shouldn’t that be in everyone’s job description?  Shouldn’t we all strive to serve each other and protect our community from anything that might set us back?  Of course, I’m not talking about anything that might put us in harm’s way; but protecting our families, our organizations, and our community from setbacks that we might be able to control shouldn’t be relegated solely to any one profession—that’s not how it works.

In the community foundation world, this proves ever so true with the new Lilly Endowment Inc. Community Leadership Grant that we just received. Not only can we match donations to our grantmaking fund, the Community Impact Fund, at a level of $2 for each $1 donated, they are also challenging us to lead in a way that a systemic problem begins to see the light of resolution.  That’s not a task that one person can do.  That’s not a task that one organization can do.  That’s the work of an entire community—all for one and one for all. However, the culture of our community must change in a way that welcomes progress, even though that means change.  The culture of our community must change in a way that celebrates success, even if it’s someone else’s victory.  The culture of our community must change in a way that removes an indifferent stance on matters and channels all we have toward a better Grant County.  I know, I know, many dedicated leaders out there are tired.  Some of us have been doing this so long we’re re-tired.  But Lilly is challenging us to think deep, to think wide, and to wow them with a proposal in early 2020.  Maybe Lilly is providing us with just the opportunity needed to create the perfect 2020 vision.  And, maybe, just maybe, situational awareness is the lens we need to plan for the future while other, less motivated, communities manage the decline.