DROP! And Give Me 20!

I use to be one of those juvenile boot camp drill instructor’s years ago. You know the one’s you use to see on Jerry Springer or Maury Povich. Yep, camouflaged, Smokey the Bear hat wearing, boot kicking Drill Instructor of kids who

Ok, this isn't me, but, you get the picture.
Ok, this isn’t me, but, you get the picture.

had been court ordered to attend our program. We marched them, PT’d them, ran them, made them clean their rooms, had work details for the obstacle course, and every now and again, when one decided he wanted to ‘buck’, we took them to ‘The Pit’, a place where we worked out their problem with an extreme physical workout. That was our job. But only half of it. (BTW, the half I did not like, in case you were wondering).

The other half of our job was to motivate them, to encourage them to be better people, to help them with their school work, to show them that they could be better then what they thought about themselves. Trust me when I tell you, one of the most heartbreaking experiences in my life was watching a 14 year old kid accept the fact that the best he would ever amount to was nothing more then a criminal who would live his life in and out of jail.

This is the part of the job I loved. It also happened to be the most difficult part, because how do you change the mindset of a kid like that? I had worked with youth for well over 8 years at this point, all in church, and the worst struggle I had to deal with was whether the kid obeyed his parents or not. This was different.

Oh so very different.

But I tried. I treated them with respect (something my brother had shared with me when I got hired), because it didn’t matter what they did to get into our program, they were here and that’s all I needed to know to do my job.

I left that job in 1998. 16 years ago. (Man that hurt to say that, like really hurt.) And back a few months ago, while I was off doing a paintball night with my youth group, I had this guy walk up to me and look at me and say “You don’t remember me, do you?” (seriously, those words are never followed by anything good in any movie I have ever seen).

I looked at him and had no idea who he was. He then said, “You use to be a drill instructor, didn’t you?” I nodded, prepping for something horrible to happen next. He finished by saying, “I saw you and just wanted to say thanks. You were one of the good ones there.” I breathed out a sigh of relief, filled with a bit of pride, as I relieved he was giving me a compliment.

We spoke for a bit longer, he had gotten out of the camp, made something of his life, has a family now, and just wanted to say hey when he saw me.


Morale of the story… Just because you meet someone in a bad part of their life, does not mean you need to add to it. However, you can attempt to make it better, and maybe, just maybe, years later you might get thanked.


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