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  • Writer's pictureKristie Sharp Williams

Courage for Today

It’s childhood cancer month, so I wanted to share a memory from our time with Eli when he was invited to speak at a law enforcement convention (a link to the video is below). He was a big fan of law enforcement and its members were big fans of his.

These days, you can’t figuratively sling a cat without hitting an idiotic ideology or “movement.” I am astonished and saddened at the lengths the hypocritical “left" will go to in displaying, nay, acting upon, its ignorance, intolerance, hate, and drive for division, chaos, and human suffering. The determination to demoralize American citizens through manipulation, browbeating and even physical violence is telling. In some instances, an effort is so far-fetched it would be comical if it did not create such sad situations or physically endanger individuals. One such topic is the defunding of law enforcement, an answer on Jeopardy for “Ignorant and Backward” ("Alex, What is ‘Defunding the Police?’”). When I first heard the call for it, I did literally think it was a joke, something from a satirical article making easy fodder of the liberal mindset. But, it’s real folks, actual human people with brains they could be using in productive ways and solving problems want to penalize law enforcement by taking tax money from the departments trying to do their job (but it’s ok to pay for doctors to kill babies and for teachers to teach the theory of evolution as fact?). Now, I do believe all government budgeting could use some trimming (as probably most of us could individually as well), but as a politically-driven penalty (and that is what this is, using defunding as a penalty, not as a way to help the department be fiscally efficient)? Stupidity and maliciousness of the highest-measure.

In the least, ask that funding be diverted or shared in training efforts to make the changes one perceives as needed within the field (Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys, head and shoulders above his peers, gets it right when in June he donated $1 million toward community policing training). And, I, like most officers out there, would agree that there are bad apples, even rotten apples, in the bunch, the arrogant, self-righteous, and smug justifying their transgressions. But, ya know what? I have also experienced the arrogant, self-righteous, and smug overstepping in the medical field, in education, in the media (good grief yes), even in ministry…even in the Wal-mart checkout line, a variety of places. That’s because ugliness is a personality, not a profession. The profession just gives bad apples a barrel in which to rot.

To give LESS money to the people who are responsible for and are expected to serve the community by protecting it AND rescuing it AND good-deeding it? — absurd ignorance, especially at a time when senseless violence and persecution against law-abiding citizens are at a high, being stoked by ideological thugs. There is no other agency or group of humans, no other job charged with such an extreme gamut of responsibility than those in law enforcement, some tasks so extreme in nature that those performing their duties (the good apples and the bad apples) could lose their lives (chase and catch the murderer/unarm the violent aggressor/secure the car wreck scene and save the victim/save the kitten in the tree/change the tire for a stranded motorist/play ball with the kids in the schoolyard/ lead the parade). My daughter Abbey’s Girl Scout Gold Award project was even about training officers in community relations and bridging the gap of mutual understanding between the officer and citizen. (Now, this is to be distinguished from the alleged criminal, even the belligerent citizen, who exacerbates a volatile situation by ignoring the commands of law enforcement to cooperate. If that’s the choice a person makes, then he or she should expect consequences at the scene and argue a defense in court with proper representation.)

In general, just a broad swipe, I am not a fan of throwing more money at any government-run agency just because I believe there is enough money floating around out there already that is not being efficiently applied (especially if we are talking social issues, I just believe the individual citizen and corporate citizen has the moral obligation to support and execute social action, it is not the government's responsibility anyway - and why would we want it to be), but to wield “defunding" as a weapon to hobble law enforcement in doing its job instead of finding ways to help law enforcement do its job is an unfathomable absurdity and a missed opportunity.

Eli was honored in 2016 with an invitation to address law enforcement officers at the 26th annual Motor Vehicle Criminal Interdiction Conference in Nashville at the Opryland Hotel. About 800 attended, representing 32 states, plus Canada (yes, Mounties!) and Eli walked on stage like a boss. He was the personal guest of the Louisiana State Police and Sgt. Lanny Bergeron, with special attention from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and the Texas Highway Patrol bearing gifts of diecast vehicles.

In addition to saving lives and protecting citizens from criminals, law enforcement agencies often go out of their way to support cancer kids and hospitals. I've seen officers taking time to visit, bring gifts, even raise money when their own supporting agencies for fallen officers could use it. At this convention in 2016, the officers raised $10,000 for St. Jude. Eli personally received a lot of attention from law enforcement throughout his treatments, including a police escort when he returned home from his first treatment; he was sworn in as a Sheriff's Deputy; he was sworn in as a Louisiana State Police officer; he visited with airport police; many other miscellaneous opportunities at various times. At his memorial service, two state troopers carried his cremation urn for his memorial service in a most touching march to the front and salute. Sgt. Bergeron arranged to have an "End of Watch" final sign-off recorded by the Georgia State Police (Eli’s last treatment efforts were in Georgia) and sent to be played for the close of Eli's memorial service, a poignant sentiment for the loss of one of childhood cancer's heroes and treatment pioneer.

It was a great honor for all of us to attend the conference in 2016, and a most memorable experience to see the brotherhood of the agencies. Eli proudly wore a replica of an LSP uniform, complete with an official hat, belt, cuffs, badge, bars, and pins. He had such confidence in the uniform, so much enjoyed wearing it and attracting attention for it. The officers at the convention got a kick out of seeing him in it. In addition to all the pictures with officers, a group of foreign tourists stopped him for a picture. Not sure what all they were saying, but they seemed impressed, too! I remember he informed me that Troopers don’t smile in pictures. I think he might have gotten away with something there because all the officers he got pictures with were smiling big!

Eli did very well with his speech. That twang and flatness Eli always had in his voice is my dad, he sounded just like that. At the convention, Eli spoke the slowest he ever had and more clear than he had done in previous speeches. The light over the stage was glaring on his paper, though, causing him to lift the notebook up so that he could see it better. It blocked his face and scrubbed on the microphone, so you can hear that interference in the recording. Things like that, he never noticed. He just read it as he always did with his speeches, but the messenger and message were always bigger than the presentation.

I’m including a link to a video of his speech, and below the link is the text so that you can follow along and understand him a little more easily. The attendees specifically raised money for St. Jude, so Eli talked about St. Jude in the speech, but he had also been a patient at MD Anderson, Memorial-Hermann, Children’s of Georgia, and Children’s of Atlanta.

“Thank you so much for inviting me to come today. My name is Eli Williams, and I am 11 years old. I have been excited to get to come and be around so many of my heroes. I am a big fan of law enforcement, and often say that is what I want to be when I grow up.

I’m not sure why. We don’t have anyone in our family that is law enforcement. The only time I see an officer up close is when a Trooper is parked behind my mom’s car. Seriously, I used to think we had blue brake lights on our car.

My mom has been stopped by so many Troopers that when we got to the hotel she thought she had been tricked into being on the game show, “This Is Your Life.”

I am grateful for being asked to come, and to have this chance to tell you thank you for what you do AS your job, and thank you for what you do above and beyond your job to support childhood cancer.

I am a cancer kid. I have a brain cancer called medulloblastoma. Cancer is the number one killer of children by disease, with a kid being diagnosed every two minutes. I was first diagnosed when I just turned seven in December 2011 and was treated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

I stayed in Memphis for almost 10 months to be treated the first time I was diagnosed. St. Jude doctors, nurses, and everyone there works very hard to lift as many hardships as they can while a family is going through cancer treatment.

A cancer kid like me doesn’t get to do normal kid stuff while in treatment, so St. Jude tries to create extra special things for us to do, and see while we are there. St. Jude thinks of everything.

But, even as good as St. Jude is at making cancer kids feel special, it was still hard being away from my home, away from my sisters and brother, my friends, my room, and my toys.

It was tough to leave my safe place to go do something so scary. To go away from people that I knew loved me, to do something that I didn’t know what was going to happen.

But, when I got to St. Jude, there were other kids there doing the same thing. They had to leave their homes, they had to have treatment that made them sick, too. And, when I was there, I got lots of letters, and lots of packages from people all over the world letting me know that they were thinking about me, and praying for me. These other kids in the hospital, and these people sending me stuff, all made sure I knew that I was not alone while I was fighting this monster.

But, even with an army of support with me, and even as famous as St. Jude is for treating cancer kids, the treatment was hard and made me very sick almost every day. The days in front of me to go through treatment seemed never-ending, and it made me not want to do it some times. But, my mom used to tell me to be strong just for that one day, the day that I was in, and not worry about days that have not even come yet.

I know that there is a lot in the news lately about things that are making your job hard to do, and hard to want to do. I know that every day, it’s hard to leave your home to go do something that you don’t know what is going to happen. I know that sometimes you might think that there will never come a day when things will be better to make it easier to do your job.

So, we are a lot alike. But, also just like me, you have a lot of people with you going through the same thing, just look around. And you have a lot of people all over our country that support you and pray for you. And, just like my mom told me, all you have to muster is courage and strength for just the day you are in. Thank you for this time, and thank you for the extra that you do to help raise awareness and funding for childhood cancer.”


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