Baton Rouge. St. Paul. Dallas.
These tragedies come on the heels of a tragic year. Ferguson. Tamir Rice. Tony Robinson. Freddie Gray. Dajerria Becton. And many others.
These tragedies tear our hearts and cities. They strain us. Bring up old wounds of racism. Expose systemic injustice. So we cry and protest and rage. When our protests and tears and prayers fail, we lose hope. And then, when another tragedy strikes, we are eviscerated - left standing alone in the streets holding our intestines in our bloody hands.
But there is another story you must hear.
A story the media is not telling. A quiet story of five cops and dozens of mentors who are loving and transforming the lives of children. These cops and mentors are building relationships in what I call “pre-reconciliation.” Reconciliation presupposes a breach in relationship. This can be a racial breach, a parent breach, a friendship or spousal or spiritual breach. These heroic cops and mentors are changing perceptions and lives with love, heading off relational issues before they appear.
Reconciliation is a relational issue – and it demands a relational solution.
Last Thursday, almost the same time a sniper was gunning down Dallas officers, I was with five polices officers two hours north of Dallas, in Oklahoma City. I was with our mentors and police officers holding their annual youth basketball tournament for inner city children.
For the past four years, my organization – The Mentoring Project – has partnered with the OKCPD Gang Prevention FACT Program. This is a unique program in our country. The police provide leadership and identify children who need mentors, and then we recruit, train and match mentors with those children.
The main job of most police officers is intervention, acting once something bad has happened. Here is your speeding ticket. You are under arrest. However, these FACT officers are paid by the city to do prevention work, to act and build relationships with children before they join gangs, get pregnant, start drugs and drop out of school.
This program is the brainchild and passion of my friend Lt. Wayland Cubit. Cubit is an officer who spent years busting drug deals, stopping homicides and seeing horrible tragedies happen. He was compelled to do something BEFORE tragedies hit. So he made a bold, midnight ask of the OKCPD Chief to allow him to start something. To his credit, the Chief said yes – and threw his full weight behind Lt. Cubit. Amazingly, the OKCPD pays five cops to do prevention work as FACT officers.
It is working.
After working closely with Lt. Cubit and his FACT officers for the past four years, I can say, these are the best tax dollars ever spent. Children are avoiding gangs, graduating high school, saying no to drugs, attending college. Children are responding to the love of our caring mentors.
Mentoring is a concrete way we can respond to the tragedies of this past week.
When we started mentoring, we asked the children what they wanted to be when they grew up. They said, predictably, "basketball players, rappers, ballers." After mentoring them for six months, we asked again. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" The children said, "Mentors and Cops."
Lt. Cubit and his FACT Officers and our heroic mentors – mentors like Taylor, Jake, Denise, Kurtis, Kevin, Vince, Charles, Jason, Abi, Sara, Julie, James, Chris, Tanner, Wes, Ashley, Jed, Jacob, Nazanin, David, Dianne, Faith, Sam, Marcus, Bruce, Holly, Robert, Ron and others – are changing the way cities relate to children. And the children are changing us.
We would love for you to join us.
If you want to become a mentor, grab a copy of our Mentor Toolkit Here. The Mentor Toolkit has everything you need to learn the relational principles of mentoring and get you started on your journey.
If you want to Mentor by Monthly Donation, please go Here. Many people don't have the time to mentor but can still help recruit, train and match mentors with a monthly gift of $10, $25 or more. We are supported by people who faithfully give every month - we would love for you to join us. To learn more go to www.thementoringproject.org