Posts Tagged ‘Eric Zapata’

By CarbonNYC – David M. Goehring


The City of Kalamazoo, its residents and surrounding law enforcement members, the family and friends of Public Safety Officer Eric Zapata are united today in a large moment of grief, compassion and outpouring of love. Today is the day of the police officer’s funeral. He is the first public safety officer or personnel of the Kalamazoo police force to be gunned down in the line of duty. The loss of young Eric, a ten year veteran, is overwhelming to all concerned.
Nearing the end of his shift last week — one he had exchanged as a favor to a fellow-police officer, — Zapata was a responder to a call for assistance in the Edison neighborhood of Kalamazoo, a location long troubled with a history of safety issues, death and violence. The first officer on the scene was shot at upon approach on the front porch. Then the assailant fled down the alleyway where he encountered  Officer Zapata and shot him in the chest and face with a large firearm. The shooter then  turned the gun upon himself and killed himself. Officer Zapata was taken to Bronson Hospital and expired from mortal wounds.
All media accounts of Eric’s life and mission described it as one of grand service, responsibility, and purpose — to himself, his family, and his friends and community — above and beyond the call of duty.  He lived to make life better, through his humorous outlook on life, his devotion to help others, his compassionate caring for the people he served, often people who lived their lives in dangerous circumstances and far less opportunities to inherit “the good life” than most of us.
All this goodness, wrapped up in one good man, has caused a huge outpouring response from many of us who did not even know him, but became grateful for who he was and what was important to him. We are grateful that he lived his values– which benefitted all of us.
His steps in life were about peace — the peace he achieved through the practice of his Catholic faith; the peace he enjoyed in fatherhood; the peace he found within his mission of law enforcement where turmoil and danger and violence were regular mainstays of his line of work; the peace he found in volunteering his time with youth, building self-image and esteem and human dignity and respect through the practice of martial arts; and the peace of regularly engaging in fun and appreciative things in life.
There are two teachers of peace I read regularly. In my quiet time this morning,  thoughts of Zapata’s funeral and day of honor which lay ahead flowed through this quiet. I picked up  the little blue book of Peace Pilgrim’s “Steps Toward Inner Peace“.  She believed world peace would come when enough people attain inner peace. Her life and work showed that one person with inner peace can make a significant contribution to world peace.
“This is the way of peace,” she said. “Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.” In a nutshell, after a very successful life in the businessworld, she began a spiritual search for the real meaning of life, love and peace — in earnest. And then after a spiritual experience, she followed through on doing what she felt called to do — become a walking pilgrim and sharing with those who would listen to her about the path to true peace.
It starts with peace within the individual. That is where the largest war of all occurs. When that war is won, there will be no wars to fight on the world stage. Between 1953 and 1981, Peace Pilgrim walked over 25,000 miles across this country. Her essential  needs were met during all that time. She was comfortable with all provision given her along the way. She remained healthy and got healthier with each step taken, as she shared, talked and taught along the way.
Vietnam-born Buddist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh, a global peace worker, recognized by world leaders and governments, and spiritual greats, believes that peace is not external or to be sought after or attained. Peace is already present in every step, and if we walk in a way that recognizes this, our life will turn into an endless path of joy.
The Dalai Lama, in his foreward to Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Peace is Every Step” says that attempting to bring about world peace through the internal transformation of individuals is difficult but that it is the only way.
                              “Peace  must first be developed within an individual. And I believe  that love, compassion, and altruism are the fundamental basis for peace.  Once these qualities are developed within an individual, he or she is then  able to create an atmosphere of peace and harmony. This atmosphere can  be extended from the individual to the family, from the family the community, and eventually to the whole world.” (The Dalai Lama)
Peace Pilgrim, Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama, all workers for peace on the large stage, start with the importance of the first individual steps we all must take….like the baby learning to walk. That is where I do my peace work, on the daily small screen of my own life and who and what I encounter during each day.
Some of my steps may be faltering, but some steps are the ones that make me want to try some new steps in another direction as eagerly as the toddler who has tumbled, scoots up and sticks that chubby leg out for the next step with a squeal of joy.
Officer Eric Zapata had peace in the activities and daily living of his life. Today in the liturgy and memorials, he will be blessed to rest in peace. 
The living of peace — that is now for us to continue, in individual ways, in big and small ways, in ways that matter, in ways that make our life and our world a better place to live in for ourselves and others.

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