Finding the American Dream – With a Little Help from the NYPD

I would like to share how I came to become "brothers" with my dear friend, Mr. Lam. In about 1987 NYPD Lieutenant Jimmy Woods was a sergeant, training rookies in the 72nd Precinct, Sunset Park. One day Jimmy went up to the detective squad to check on things. One of the detectives told him that there is a man who owned a small Chinese restaurant who made a police report because members of the Ghost Shadows gang were extorting money from him. Arrests were made, which followed with him getting death threats. Jimmy took that very personal. He went over to see Mr. Lam to reassure him that he would be safe. Jimmy turned the little storefront restaurant into a mini precinct. He would hold rollcall with his rookies who would be assigned in the area and throughout the day. Jimmy would visit Mr. Lam and sometimes take a seat in the restaurant and do his administrative paperwork.

The gang members who had attempted to extort Mr. Lam went to jail and the death threats stopped. Jimmy and Mr. Lam became very close from then on. Jimmy even helped him navigate the bureaucratic challenges of getting his wife and son and daughter from China into America. Jimmy shared with him that when he was a little boy his mother often put chow mein on hamburger buns. Mr. Lam actually added something to his menu and called it the "Jimmy Woods Chow Mein Sandwich".

The years went by and Jimmy got promoted and took on a couple of new assignments. Mr. Lam upgraded from a store front to nice restaurant with tables in Flatbush. In May 2000, I became the Chief of Brooklyn South. Jimmy was the community affairs lieutenant. One of his jobs was to bring me around and introduce me to all of the community leaders. During those visits he told me that he needed to introduce me to a very important person. He took me into Mr. Lam's restaurant. I then had the honor of becoming Mr Lam's other "brother." (He would call both Jimmy and I "brother".)

One night, a few years later, I was coming out of my mothers home on Avenue L, in Flatbush. Mr. Lam had been driving by making deliveries and saw me as my mother was waving goodbye to me on the porch. He stopped the car and shouted, "Brother!" I introduced him to my mother and he became her second son. Frequently I would call her and say, "Mom I am in a restaurant. Would you like me to bring you something?" She would say, "Oh no, Mr. Lam is coming tonight." One time there was a big snowstorm and there was just about no traffic on the roads. Mr. Lam actually walked 3 miles from his restaurant to bring her food for the week.

As my Mom's abilities diminished, he did more and more for her. He would bring her food, take out her garbage, and when she needed the 24 hour care of home aides and she stopped eating, he would come bring food to the home aids and visit my Mom. As her health receded his visits became more frequent. He actually set up her last birthday party on March 5, 2011. He brought a big cake and it actually perked her up so much.

When my Mom passed away on May 2, 2011, he was there for us, as he had always been there. He was very saddened by her death and he still misses her.

Mr. Lam's son and daughter are both extremely successful professionals and are contributing substantially and admirably to their profession and to their communities.

What courage I see in Mr. Lam's life. He came to America by himself and worked so hard to bring a better life to his family. And he succeeded. And how honored am I to have Jimmy Woods as such a dear friend. Jimmy literally helped Mr. Lam and his family find the American dream.

Life Coaching/Leadership Coaching has become a significant part of my journey. There are so many lessons that I have learned that have transcended so much of what I believe life is about. I continue to marvel at how beautiful it is how people show up in our lives, just when we need them most and of course, we get to show up in the lives of others, when they need us most as well. And here's the thing - we always undervalue the presence we have in other peoples lives, and, we tend to not fully appreciate the presence that other people have in our lives, until sometimes many years later. I would love to share the following experience that certainly captures people being there for others, just when they need it most. Thank you for reading about my "Brother," Mr. Lam, and my dear friend, Lieutenant Jimmy Woods. Have a wonderful day everyone.