by David Frattare
When I proposed the topic for this article back in November of 2019, I was soaking up the sun in San Diego looking forward to a wonderful 2020, anchored by my son’s senior year of high school and a once-in-a-lifetime mission trip to Africa with my daughter. What we got instead was a global crisis, isolation, division and social distancing. It was during the pandemic that I came across a note that I had written inside of my bible reminding me to “find something that anchors you, something that keeps you looking forward; the past does not equal the future…all that matters is what are you going to do, right now?” That anchor would prove to be the book I was holding and a lot of faith.
Look up faith in the dictionary and you are going to see two definitions. The first is simply “a complete trust or confidence in someone or something.” It’s likely that as a first responder, you’ve developed a trust or confidence in someone or something. When you serve others or put your life in danger, you do so with some degree of trust or confidence in those who stand shoulder to shoulder with you. You have a faith that has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with being a human being. The world defines religion as “the belief or worship of a superhuman controlling power.” For me, the decision to become Catholic at the age of thirty-eight was more about my desire to be a better person. Religion became the foundation upon which I became a better husband, father, friend, supervisor and law enforcement officer. It helped me understand the importance of not only ‘having faith,” but also ‘keeping it’ to fall back on when things got difficult. I remind myself daily of the faith that I have in myself, my co-workers, our mission as a law enforcement task force and the unwavering belief that we are making this world a better place for today’s children.
The second definition of faith, “a strong belief in God, or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof,” can be a bit more controversial to consider amidst everything that is going on in our world. Depending on your view, this definition asks us to believe in a God that may or may not exist, in a religion that we may or may not agree with and to set aside proof for ‘spiritual apprehension,’ a term that produces more than 5.1 million different Google results. But before we get too far into a philosophical debate about religion, I want you to stop and consider the word ‘spirituality’ all by itself. Spirituality is generally defined as the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul, or deep feelings and beliefs of a religious nature, as opposed to material or physical things. Beliefs like love, peace, help, hope, grace, service, spirit and heart that appear hundreds of times in most bible translations. I challenge you to open the book of your God and find a passage or scripture that doesn’t lift you up or fill you with faith.
If we are to succeed in improving the mental health and wellness of ourselves and others, we must put our concern for the human spirit above all else. When we begin to view spirituality more from a human standpoint and less for its religious connotations, it becomes easier to open our minds to the endless possibilities of how we can help others and improve our own lives in the process. Look past the scriptures, parables and psalms and focus on the human side of the bible. Despite hundreds of years of suffering and despair, we read stories of hope and healing. We learned of friends helping friends and enemies alike, and how people of faith, and even those without, had their hearts and minds opened. We witnessed the power of what it means to stand up for your beliefs and sacrifice oneself for something greater.
Right now, we are getting through this together, just as we have gotten through all of the other disasters, crises, tough times and emotional ups and downs that life has thrown our way. I have adopted a mantra that I pass along in every one of the wellness sessions that I have the privilege of teaching for The Innocent Justice Foundation – So far, you’ve survived 100% of your worst days.
With faith, we can survive anything!
David Frattare is the Director of State Investigations and the Commander of the Ohio ICAC Task Force, part of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office. He is currently assigned to the United States Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force and the Cleveland FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force. Mr. Frattare also serves as a senior chaplain with the International Fellowship of Chaplains.