Remember the age-old adage “Do onto others as you wish to be done onto you”? How about the teaching of “loving your enemy’? I must be honest, growing up, I could never understand the idea of loving your enemy. My question was always “Why and how could anyone possibly want to do that?” That was until I met one young man while working in Northern Manitoba who taught me a lesson I will never forget.
I was 24 and had only been working on the job for two years, and I was working in a very busy Northern Manitoba detachment. One day, I was asked to go to the cell block and provide a recently arrested person with a call to his lawyer. From my memory, I could recall he’d just been arrested for a drug related offence. Nevertheless, I did as I was asked and went to escort this 20-something man to the interview room to call legal aid.
Well, this man called me every dirty name in the book from the time I opened his cell door until the time he sat in front of the telephone. And you know what? I let him. I let him call me things I’d never repeat to anyone, and I sat there stoically, silently and still as he went on.
Why? In that moment, I saw that he was hurting and he needed to release that hurt. I instantly knew his anger had absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with his past and current situation. I felt a calm wash over me; one I’d not felt before.
After he was done spouting off at me, I looked at him and I waited a few long seconds before I said, “I don’t know you, I don’t know what you’ve done and I certainly don’t know where you’ve been or what you’ve had to endure. But you have to know that what’s happening right now, it’s not personal.”
I paused and then said, “You look tired. Are you thirsty? Can I get you some apple juice? We have some in the fridge.”
Well, I’ve never seen a person let go of their hate and completely lay down their proverbial sword as quickly as he did in that moment.
“Yes,” he said. His voice was filled with relief as he leaned back in his chair.
I went to the fridge and grabbed two apple juice drinks. I handed them both to him and he threw those two juice cups back like he had just been sitting in the desert for weeks without a drop to drink.
I then handed him the phone, dialed legal aid and left him alone to talk. When he was finished, he signalled me to come back in.
“All set?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said, now seemingly disarmed of any hate or distain for me.
I instantly knew his anger had absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with his past and current situation.
I escorted him back to his cell, and before closing the door I reminded him that this wasn’t the end of his story but a chance to turn the page and redirect his life. He didn’t say anything, just gave me a slight nod.
Fast forward about eight months. It’s three o’clock in the morning and I’m working the dreaded night shift. It’s been a busy night of domestics, fights and scooping up intoxicated people from the street.
A call comes in: it’s a robbery in progress at a gas station involving a cab driver. Turns out it’s just down the street from our detachment.
This being the only information I had, I hopped in my police car and floored it, as I wanted to get there before anyone was injured. I often liked being the first one on scene—total rookie motivation.
I arrived and I immediately saw a man in the backseat of a cab with a knife to the driver’s throat. I got out of my police car, gun in hand and yelled “Police! Drop the knife!”
The suspect got out of the cab and walked towards the trunk, almost as if he was using it for cover. I had no idea if he was going to run at me and try to stab me, or what was about to happen.
Under the dim light of the streetlamp, I could see the suspect squinting his eyes, almost as if he was trying to see who I really was. Both of us stared at each other, both breathing heavily from the adrenaline. In a brief and nervous silence, the knife-wielding suspect pointed at me and said something to me that I will never forget: “You’re the apple juice lady!”
Sure enough, I can now see it’s the man from eight months ago. He threw down the large knife like the handle was suddenly burning a hole in his hand. I recognized there was almost no need for me to yell out commands anymore as he threw himself onto the cab’s trunk with his hands behind his back, just waiting to be handcuffed.
I walked over with my gun still out, still shouting out commands for him not to move. I handcuffed him and started reading him his rights. Before I had a chance to get through the first sentence, he was shouting at me, “I only want to deal with you, whatever you want, you’re the apple juice lady.”
And that is my story of how apple juice and loving your enemy saved lives one night in a Northern Manitoba community.
Corporal Andrea MacLeod is a 20-year veteran of the RCMP and currently posted to the Newmarket Forensic Identification Services Section as a Forensic Specialist.
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