I've been sharing this lesson for years and know it to be true. But knowing this doesn't make it any easier while going through a challenge. It's hard to see what the opportunity is when you are just trying to get through the adversity you are facing. It seems only in retrospect are we able to see what the challenge is meant to teach us and the opportunity and path forward.
You see, this week my wife Kathryn and I are celebrating that she is officially off probation! Seriously she received 6 months probation after being arrested at LaGuardia airport. It was one of the strangest days of our lives.
I had just spoken to all the principals of NYC schools. We went to LGA airport where I was flying to Kansas and my wife was flying home to Florida. We went to different terminals. About 20 minutes after I arrived she texted me...
She said "Don't freak out it's all going to be okay but I just got pulled by TSA and they just called the police."
"You know that lipstick taser I carry in my purse for protection? Well I forgot to put it in my checked bag. I told them to just keep it but they called the police. I'm sure it will be fine. Just get on your flight."
I couldn't leave knowing this was going on. I waited and waited and then she finally called me and said.
"OMG they are arresting me and taking me to a local precinct at the airport and about to handcuff me. They are taking my phone."
It turns out her lipstick taser is legal in Florida where we live and in most states but three, New York being one of them. Who knew? Three police officers took her away in handcuffs.
I called my client in Kansas and said I had to cancel. My mission was to find my wife and get her out of jail. Just saying these words is funny now but was absolutely crazy then. I eventually found the local precinct after taking a few airport shuttle buses and dodging cars.
I was told she would be transported from the local precinct to the Queens city jail and have to go up in front of the Judge but since the Judge wasn't in she would have to stay overnight in a jail cell and see the Judge sometime in the next few days.
What??? I felt like I was in the twilight zone.
At that point I called a friend who lives in NY and he knew a great attorney who called me and said he didn't think he could keep my wife out of jail but he could try to help her get her own jail cell.
In the meantime my wife was locked up in a jail cell at the precinct. I talked to the cops and they said they had good news. My wife wasn't a terrorist and didn't have a record. I wanted to yell. "I know! She's a wife and mother!!"
Speaking of being a mother, I had to call our kids. "Hey guys. Umm. Mom is in jail."
The cops said my wife was still going to the city jail to see the Judge. I sat down, put my head down and just prayed. I didn't know what to do. I felt helpless, powerless and just tried to stay positive. About a few hours later I got a call from the attorney and he had good news.
They were going to let my wife go. She wouldn't have to stay overnight in jail. But we'd have to fly back in a month for her court date. Of course I didn't want to fly back but anything was better than making my wife stay overnight in jail with nothing but the dress she had on.
A month later the judge gave her six months probation and community service which she does a ton of already and this week she is officially off probation!! I can no longer tease her that I'm married to a criminal but truth be told it was a scary, crazy time that will always be a part of us.
In all seriousness this experience gave us a whole new perspective. We saw and felt how fast you could lose your freedom. One minute you're free, the next you're in jail. We were fortunate to have the resources to deal with this but what about those that don't? What about those who are more likely to be arrested and placed in the system because of their skin color or nationality?
We think about this often and now see the opportunity this challenge has presented.
We believe in law enforcement (my dad was NYPD) but want to be an advocate for change to improve the system. We have no idea what that looks like right now (I might run for office) but know this challenge is an opportunity to make us better and make the world better.
That's what we all have to do. In order to grow we have to take our mess and make it our message. We have to transform our tests into our testimony. We have to take every challenge in our lives and use them to create a better future.