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A Spit-Shine of Self-Care

Updated: Nov 28, 2022

911 Training Institute & Jillian Gard

Public-Safety Dispatch Supervisor

“These shoes are made for walking, and that’s just what they’ll do…” Nancy Sinatra

I love these shoes. They are my favorite. They are black, patent leather men’s dress shoes with thick rubber soles and padded inserts for extra comfort. I usually wear them with a suit when I have to teach training classes or do speaking engagements. I like the color black so I often wear a black suit because it looks sharp and professional. These shoes add a classy pop.

One of my favorite things to do is shine them. Old-school spit shine. These are patent leather shoes, not a corfam synthetic, high-gloss substitute. These babies require some loving attention in order to look like this. I crack open a can of Kiwi Black Parade Gloss (a premium shoe polish). I take a match, careful not to set my house ablaze, and light the polish to burn out impurities until the polish liquefies at the top. Give it a minute to cool and it is soft to the touch.

I wrap my index finger in an old, white rag and dab it into the polish and evenly apply it to the surface area on the toe of my shoes. I remove the laces and work my way up the tongue to buff out marks created by the laces. After I have applied the polish, then I dab my finger in a little bit of water to slightly dampen the rag and then I begin the process of working the polish into the leather and removing the excess. My finger moves in tiny circles, meticulously covering every inch. I apply very small drops of water and as my finger moves over them it creates that “spit shined” appearance. Finally, I apply a thick coat of Kiwi Black Edge Dressing along the rubber sole. Mind you, I wear latex gloves so I do not leave any fingerprints on the shined surface of the shoes. For many, this is a painstaking process that is time consuming, but I find it quite calming and therapeutic.

What you don’t know is that these shoes are nearly 20 years-old. That’s right. I bought them in 2003 when I was a recruit in the police academy. These shoes have a lot of miles on them. They’ve been through a police academy, a recertification academy, quite a few oral board interviews, my swearing-in ceremony as a peace officer, hundreds of public presentations, several awards ceremonies, and six police funerals.

I’ve stood at attention, parade rest and at-ease in these shoes. They completed hours of inspection and marching drills. They’ve run laps around a track as consequence. They’ve marched in circles in a parking lot. The bottom soles are completely smooth at the toes and heels from all the left/right/about faces I’ve had to turn. They’ve been in patrol cars and communication centers; they’ve been in jails and in chiefs’ offices; they’ve walked across stages to accepts awards; they’ve walked on the hallowed grounds of cemeteries to pay honor and respect.

And yet despite their old age and all their travels, these shoes still shine like new when I give them care. Here’s the point: these shoes are not much different than you as a first-responder.

Just like these shoes, you’ve seen and done a lot in your career. You’ve had great days and you’ve had tough days. Long hours, mandated OT, holidays away from family, not to mention traumatic calls for emergency police/fire rescue/EMS response… all these things can leave you a little scuffed. Your shine starts to fade over time. What would these shoes look like at 20 years-old with all these miles if I never shined them? Regular maintenance keeps them in tip-top shape and looking good.

The same applies to you. If you implement regular acts of self-care into your lifestyle to optimize your wellness, then you, too, can look just like these shoes, regardless of all the calls you've handled over all your years of service. All you need is a spit-shine of self-care to help you last 20+ years serving as a first-responder.

About the Author:

Jillian Gard is the Dispatch Supervisor with 19 years of service at the agency where she serves. She works in the city where she was born and raised. Jillian is also a Communications Training Officer and a Tactical Dispatcher. She is currently working on a project to implement a Peer Support Team into operations at her agency.

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