The Chaplain's Notebook

Stop, Breathe and Live?

The above title is a variation of the fire safety slogan “Stop, drop and roll.” While the fire safety slogan can save your life, the title slogan can help you live better. We will start with stop — stop and take a good, long look at what is happening around you and those in your orbit. A deputy does this anyway while on patrol, so it might be easier for them to apply the technique even when they are off duty. The people you meet are affected by you. They can be your co-workers, family or friends. These people may affect you the same way without your awareness. Therefore, I have a deep involvement in this notion of stopping and really looking around. My ministry is in a special-needs parish for the deaf, so stopping and seeing what is around you is a way of life for them, a visual life. After spending nearly 30 years with the deaf, I have absorbed some of their lifestyle, and I have seen people and things I would have otherwise ignored.

Breathe: What a force of life this is! It is all around us daily. Deputies run into a “breathe” situation when trying to get people to tell their side of the story. Deputies tell people to stop, slow down and breathe. Deputies can also give the breath of life in CPR. I have never had to use my training in that, but all I can imagine is what a feeling that must be. In the Scriptures, for those who believe in such, “breathing,” “breath” and “breathe” are mentioned approximately 100 times. If I remember my science classes right, trees take in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. We are not alone in this idea of breathing.

Now to the last part — live. What else is there to do with a life? So let us start. Some mornings after I pick up my newspaper from the bushes, I’ll stop, take a breath and look at a spider spinning a web. Then, there I am for what seems a long minute, taking in this wonder of nature and not caring what the neighbors are thinking. (“Look, Ethel, he is wearing those plaid pajamas again!”) Yeah, I have plaid pajamas, but I just started my day off great. To live is so simple and can be so complex at the same time because trust is involved. Trust is a scary virtue to have, because sometimes I forget to mix in some common sense with it.

I had a teacher during seminary whose favorite quote was an Arabic proverb that said: “Trust in Allah but tie your camel.” It is simple but complex. A few months ago, I attended a chaplain workshop about first responders. A police officer was there sharing a story of trust as a first responder. While on patrol, this officer spotted a person sitting on an overpass bridge above the freeway. Now, this officer could have gone into the situation as a superhero, using the authority of a police officer and just making a grab for the person. Not this time. From a distance, the officer made contact with this person over a 45-minute period. After exchanging life stories and having a bond of trust connecting them, they walked away from the overpass together. Now that is living.

I will close this with a section of a Ted Loder poem titled “Breathe Into Me”: “And breathe into me something like quietness and confidence, that the lion and lamb in me may lie down together and be led by trust as straightforward as a little child.”

How can I contact a chaplain? Chaplains are available at their unit of assignment, or by calling the Psychological Services Bureau at (213) 738-3500.