My name is Donte Woods-Spikes I personally have watched both of these mothers put in extra hours not only for their children, but also to assist the people that surround them. As much as I admire them both…I didn’t want them to meet. Why? In Columbus Ohio, community and police relations are not in favorable conditions. I try my best to bring the two entities together for the sake of all the innocent people who needs them both. At times I lose faith in both sides, but when the unlikely meeting took place between Leatha Wellington and Kelly “Officer” Shay, my faith became permanently restored.
It all started January 24th, 2017 around 11:00 AM. I woke up to see on my social media page that I was left a message by Officer Shay, telling me to contact her…ASAP.
Pictures of me and other officers were posted on my page as well Columbus Division of Police social media page, which is how we met. I only communicated with Officer Shay through social media. I never saw her in person yet, so the fact she wanted me to contact her made me worry.
Instantly, I thought about everything I did in the past week and wondered if I unintentionally did anything illegal and if it was jail worthy. I thought about the red light I ran, the U-turn I made, the soda I got from the fast food place when I asked for a cup of water. None of it was enough to go to jail, so I called her. (Lol)
Once we began talking I was informed of a slight issue that was taking place at an event she saw I was going to attend. The event I was going to was called Feed The Streets.
Officer Shay told me that the landlord of the plaza was skeptical of Feed The Streets presence because of the crowd that it drew during event and preferred if they didn’t have the event in the parking lot. She volunteered to go to the event herself, just in case someone would call the police, she would be present to inform other officers that she was already on the scene and there was no problem.
I was very hesitant to pass along Officer Shay’s contact info because I knew once FTS were notified that they weren’t able to have the event in the parking lot, they weren’t going to be happy. Reluctantly, I informed Ms.Wellington and gave her Officer Shay’s number. After a while, I checked back with Ms. Wellington later on to find out that this was going to be their last time setting up in the parking lot.
…I became very upset. I couldn’t understand how someone could have an issue with a group of people providing food and clothing for ANYONE that is in need. The more I thought about the event location no longer being in the same spot…my brief moment of anger turned to worry. I began playing scenarios over in my head thinking what happened when Officer Shay and Ms. Wellington were on the phone, Who said what? Was it a smooth exchange or did someone get offended?
As much as I wanted to dig deeper and see if anything did happen, I left it alone and just waited to the day of the event to see what actually did happened.
So the day of event comes…
As I’m driving down West Broad Street I thought about how cold it actually was, and how the homeless people who frequently visited the event have to remain cold while I’m in my car with heat. I make it to the event and turn into the parking lot. I saw the police car WAY in the corner away from the event. I knew that was Officer Shay, I became worried again. I arrived a little bit late, so I thought maybe before I arrived they had a brief altercation or disagreement, something that caused her to stay away from the crowd.
I got out of my car and walked over to Ms. Wellington to help her unload some things out the back of her car. I was positive she was going to be angry or upset…but she wasn’t. She said hi, gave me a hug, and briefly talked about them finding a new spot to hold the event…and jumped right into the fray of things. I was thrown off by her being unfazed by the whole ordeal. Even with her being so calm, I still knew I had to go check on Officer Shay.
I mingled amongst the crowd for a couple of minutes while I watched the police car to see what was going to happen. Nothing…absolutely nothing. That was almost worse than something happening because I was prepared to react to whatever she did. I figured I needed to go see Officer Shay before something bad happened.
I separated from the crowd and walk over to the police car. As I got closer, me and Officer Shay made eye contact and waved at one another. As I approached the driver’s side of her police car, she stepped out. We hugged each other and began to talk about how good it was to finally meet face to face. I asked her if she wanted to come over and join, she said yea but she didn’t want to scare anyone. As much as I hate to admit it, she was right. The only reason I was comfortable was because I knew who she was, If I didn’t I would be skeptical. After that I asked if she would be able to come another Saturday. She said that she usually doesn’t work on Saturdays because she has to be with her daughter.
When she said that, I realized that from what I seen of her on social media, she happens to spend a LOT of time with her daughter. I began thinking to myself, “Wow, that’s very honorable of her to come out on this cold day that she usually doesn’t work to help maintain control in case something does happen.” I started to think, maybe nothing bad happened between them. Maybe I’m just making it all up in my head. As soon as I thought that…
Ms. Wellington and some people from the event began to walk over to where me and Officer Shay were. I figured THIS was about to be the moment they exchanged words.
What happened was one of the homeless people who attended the event was sitting on the curb next to us. He seemed to be very upset about something and didn’t want to go over to the event, so some of FTS decided to come over to him. We found out it was his birthday, so we all sang happy birthday. I said to myself, this is pretty cool, let me get a picture.
After that Officer Shay went to the car to grab something. I thought to myself it’s about to happen now…
Officer Shay came back with stickers and passed them out the kids. Which they seemed to be enjoying very much. I took some more pictures.
Unexpectedly, everything was going fine and I began to not worry as much as I did. Until something else happened that I knew for sure was about to disrupt the joyful moment.
One of the kids stopped and stared at Officer Shay while she was passing out the stickers. He began pointing at something…
He was pointing at her gun…
THIS was where I knew there was nothing that could easily be brushed aside or covered up with another happy moment. I thought of every high-profile shooting that took place in Columbus as well other cities and states. I don’t know if the kid knew about any of that Officer Shay turned around and saw him pointing. My heart began to beat very fast. I froze up and just stared.
Officer Shay said to him “If you see someone with one of those tell someone right away.”
He shook his head yes.
I just stood back and watched, waiting for it to turn into a long conversation, or a moment of awkwardness…the situation literally ended as quick as it began. I continued to observe everyone while they talked for a second…thinking of what else could possibly happen that would make me uncomfortable.
Officer Shay got back in her car, and Ms. Wellington walked over to her and they began to talk.
As they were talking I began thinking how this moment was inevitable. I also thought about how selfish I was, how I thought of so many ways to not have them meet, how I doubted anything good would come from their encounter…but not once did I encourage them to connect when they both serve the same community. I tried to protect them from one another because of my own inability to trust that people aren’t able to connect with each others in ways that I can. This beautiful moment could have been sabotaged if I actually acted on my doubt. I took the picture while they were talking.
As the event was coming to an end, Ms. Wellington walks back over to the event and begins to pack up. I follow behind to assist her and everyone else. We finish up and I begin to say bye to everyone. I walk over to Ms. Wellington and she gives me a hug. As I was ready to let go she held me for a couple more seconds and said, “I love you.” To be honest…her words touched my soul. I can’t remember if I responded, but I know for a moment I could see inside myself. I felt very special and so privileged to be apart of the event.
Everyone began to leave, so I made way over to Officer Shay to say bye to her. I walked over to car once again, and she got out her car, again. I hugged her and thanked her for taking the time to watch over the event. She grabbed my hands and she said to me, “You have a gift. There are not a lot of people who can do what you do.” She was referring to me constantly attempting to bridge the gap not only between community and police, but people period. Little did she know, what I considered to be protecting both of them, was me acting just like the people that cause division. Her acknowledging me shed the guilty feeling that lingered inside of me. Again, not even a couple of minutes after Ms. Wellington embraced me, I felt honored that someone else would even acknowledge me in such a personal and fulfilling way how Officer Shay did.
What lesson did I learn from all of this?
What makes them both special is the traits of being a mother aren’t only exclusive to their children, they share the same love and compassion for humanity.
One of Ms. Wellington’s son’s is gone. She could have easily given up and went into that dark place that is very easy to go to when we lose a loved one…but she continues to invest in her sons vision and share that same love she has for her family with everyone else. As she continues her mission, the amount of strength she has is a constant reminder that we have the ability to push through things that seem impossible to overcome.
Officer Shay’s mission involves her waking up every day and dedicating her life to police neighborhoods in the midst of police officers being under heavy judgement and remains true to her jobs purpose watching over the people. Every moment she has free outside of her job, is invested into building a stronger bond with her daughter and promising her a future while she puts her life on the line for people she has never met.
After seeing watching them fulfill their missions, I found out what my mission was as well…
I did everything I could to fight against them crossing paths, but the day they finally did they both recognized me in ways that made me feel at peace. These two women are a prime example of sacrifice. If every person had the chance to experience the love of these two mothers, the world would change for the better. Neither one of these women are my mother, but they both have embraced and cared for me as if I was their own son.
Even though the three of us may have different ways of approaching community work, were all contributing to the same exact cause. Some times we can get so caught up in looking at solving issues in our own learned expected ways that we forget there plenty of others people who are doing the same exact things, but just in a different way. The same level of encouragement and embrace they have given me, I have no choice but to remain true to my mission, and share that same feeling they give me, to everyone else.
Sacrificing for a greater good is not something thats easy to do because it comes with putting pride to the side and facing your insecurities and fears head on. You have to let go of whatever may be holding you back and telling you no, because as soon as you overcome whatever it is, a new door opens up and new beginnings take place.
Happy Mothers Day Leatha Wellington and Kelly Shay. You both mean the world to me and I will continue to share the gift you shared with me with everyone I cross paths with.