Yesterday morning while I was driving to work I learned of the death of a Cincinnati police officer who was killed in the line of duty. He was shot during an altercation with a civilian. His name was Sonny Kim. It happened in a neighborhood that is not familiar with this sort of crime. In fact he was the first Cincinnati police officer killed in the line of duty in 15 years.
The story as it is being reported by the Cincinnati news media is that Officer Kim was shot be a troubled young man that wanted to take his own life and wanted to do it by being shot by a police officer. The young man’s plan went awry when the his mother got involved and tried to prevent her son from trying to get shot at the hand of officer Kim. In the chaos that ensued, Officer Kim was shot multiple times. Officer Kim died on the scene despite efforts by the mother of the young man who shot him to try to help. In the end responding Cincinnati police officers shot and killed the young man who fired on Officer Kim. Two men are dead and a quiet Cincinnati neighborhood remains shaken and is left grieving.
I did not learn this sad story from a TV news report. I learned it from my wife as she reviewed her Facebook feed in the car yesterday morning and said to me, your friend Jay posted about someone he knew who was a Cincinnati police officer and was killed in the line of duty. I knew the minute the words left her lips who she was speaking about and my heart sank.
My friend Jay is my former business partner. He and his wife Denise and I were co-owners of a martial arts school in Chicago for about ten years. They still own and operate the dojo which is Chicago’s most successful traditional karate dojo. They are remarkable people, remarkable parents and leaders in the community. Officer Kim who served 27 years on the force was also a dedicated martial artist. In fact he was a 6th degree blackbelt in Shotokan karate, the same style we practice at our dojo. Officer Kim was Sensei Kim to us. Sensei Kim was very helpful and supportive of our fledging school in our early years.
I had no deep personal friendship with Sensei Kim. I only had the opportunity to train with him a half a dozen or so times in my on again off again 20 years of karate training. The few times I did train with him left a strong impression of a man with endless dedication and great character. I find myself grieving at a degree larger than normal for a man I knew only a little bit. I suppose part of my grief is for the community that is torn apart by this incident. I suppose part of my grief is for the wife and the three teenage sons left behind without a father. I suppose part of my grief is because it opens up old wounds about losses I have experienced that are closer to me than Sensei Kim.
As I sat on my couch late last night and reflected though, I am came to the realization that the reason I am feeling so much pain is because we as a collective human consciousness have lost a vital warrior of peace and light. Sensei Kim wasn’t just one of the pretty good guys. He was a man that gave everything to serve his fellow mankind both in his professional and his personal life. In a world that is currently shifting so quickly we need as many of theses warriors of peace and light as we can find. In Sensei Kim’s slightly less than fifty years on this planet he made a huge difference.
Going forward I find myself wondering how people will think about this story in the days ahead? Which parts of the story will people focus on and what will the impact be to them? As always there will be those individuals who only catch a part of the story and form an opinion. Some will focus on the fact that a young black man was shot by a police officer. Some will say a police officer was murdered by a young man with a criminal history and alleged gang connections. Others will point to the problem with gun violence in America. Some will declare that the world has gone mad and we are on a hopeless downward spiral to anarchy. All of these possible views are ripped straight from current headlines in other stories. Me? I choose to not focus on any of those pieces of the story. Those pieces focus on dividing mankind. I would rather focus on what brings us together.
Here’s what I choose to focus on as I sit here on my couch feeling sad and confused. If the Universe has lost one of the truly good warriors of peace and light than the solution is to find a replacement. Since there is only one person that I have complete and total control over and that person is me, I must continue to do my part to give everything I can in both my professional and my personal life to make this Universe a better place. It’s not that I haven’t been trying for years. It’s just that I have to ask myself whether I’ve been trying hard enough. If I can do even a percentage of the good that Sensei Kim did than I can make a real difference.
I can’t reduce the pain the immediate and extended Kim family is feeling in this moment in time. I can remember that the Universe is a better place because of the man who was born in Korea in 1966 and came to America in 1973. Sensei Kim forever changed the course of tens of thousands of lives that he influenced over the years. One of those lives was mine. I have had many mentors in my life. Some played huge roles like my father and others who had long term and direct impact on my life path. Others had a more subtle impact in a passing way like a stranger on a train or a short term acquaintance. Some, like Sensei Kim make there greatest impact when they leave us behind wondering why, what and how. I’ve been in that place a few too many times over these past couple of years, but each time the lesson becomes a little bit more clear. The lesson is to make a difference one day at a time, one person at a time and with every last ounce of effort you can manage. Make any difference you are capable of making no matter how small you may think it will be.
According to Wikipedia, the Japanese word Sensei is used to show respect to someone who has achieved a certain level of mastery in an art form or some other skill. In Sensei Kim’s life that “other skill” was clearly giving back to the community and the collective human consciousness. May he continue to be our teacher as we practice the Arts of Peace and Love.