Celebrating Heroes

‘Dirty Jobs’ Host Helps Ohio Cop with ‘Be a Better Me’ Program for Kids

I’ve always admired and respected Mike Rowe, the voiceover guy for Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” reality show. Albeit compromisingly, Rowe is also the main man in the been there, done that show “Dirty Jobs,” bringing his own brand of humor and sarcastic-laden insights from sewage-treatment system operations, worm farms, cow manure processing plants, bridge-painting projects, roadkill collection routes, etc. You name it; if it’s dirty, precarious or patently insane…he’s done it. I’m a spectator.

I recently stumbled upon a fairly new Facebook-only series for which Rowe is the host. The show is called “Returning The Favor” and is based on Rowe and producers receiving random do-gooder stories from unknown Americans who basically expose someone who they feel does the greater good for humanity and deserves attention. Rowe and his “Returning The Favor” staff pore over submissions, choose one, then traverse to the locale where these Mother Teresa emulators are doing their part to make the globe a better place.

A recent episode had me swallowing hard when I learned it was about a Canton, Ohio policeman who has a knack for keeping kids in the right lane and evident interpersonal skills exhibited with folks on his beat. A community-policing aficionado, you could say. His name is Lamar Sharpe, a towering, fit, yet modest and mild-mannered cop whose penchant is to mentor youngsters. But before we explore the marvelous deeds of Officer Sharpe, let’s briefly delve into the character of Mr. Rowe.

I am writing and slating this story under OpsLens feature category “Celebrating Heroes” where I/we ordinarily bring deserved attention to people who epitomize stewardship and selflessness. This time, however, we seem to be positioned to do that for more than Officer Sharpe. This article’s title offers a hint: Mike Rowe, the “Dirty Jobs” guy we embrace for descending rabbit holes with cameras to do his part to buff America. Basically, Rowe dares doing jobs to which most others offer an upturned nose.

November 2011: “n the mixing room, paint-recycler-for-a-day Mike Rowe separates paint collected and pours it into one of three steel drums according to color: warm, cold or white.” (Credit: Facebook/Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe)

Mike Rowe strikes me as an all-around authentic guy who easily relates to humanity by opening his heart and offering supportive words laminated with unfailing wit. Perhaps he gets that from his parents, both of whom were career teachers offering knowledge for others to use. He simply has an uncanny ability to magnetize folks close enough to give them a literal and figurative hug. Maybe it’s the daily jeans, T-shirt, and baseball cap presentation that genuinely defines Rowe’s ultra-social nature. Besides being a curious bugger, he is a do-gooder through-and-through, so I see why “Returning The Favor” creators and producers chose him as their brand icon. Mike fits the role just as much as he fit down big city sewer holes to…scrape you-know-what from drippy, dank, antiquated, urban subterranean tunnels.

In essence, Rowe and the RTF crew go on the road and record unscripted encounters with anyone and everyone who has been impacted by their proposed do-gooder. They encapsulate episodes in abbreviated nuggets, about 20 minutes or so, portraying their chosen do-gooder and usually kicking in a new operational facility or much-needed equipment, or a fat check to grow their respective life-lifting venture…or a combination thereof.

“A Law Enforcement Episode”

By nature, law enforcers are generalists who fill quite a number of roles in society. The wearing-many-hats mantra is accurate. Paring it down, though, cops also have a certain special trait they gravitate to and excel in. Some police officers are excellent in DUI enforcement, for example. Others may have that special sauce served in talking suicidal folks down from the cliff in peaceful harmony. There are all kinds of police among us, a very good thing.

Like every beat cop, Officer Lamar Sharpe knows the pulse of his community and what may need a little TLC to keep things on the up-and-up. Specifically, Officer Sharpe’s forte is mentoring youngsters who may be teetering on the fence, see-sawing between either breakthrough (growth) or breakdown (wayward and defiant). As Sharpe puts it: “Kids in the country and city are struggling, so we try to teach ’em different things. Things like etiquette, good, healthy relationships…and I’ve started something where these kids trust me so, therefore, they’re starting to trust other police officers. So, the kids aren’t running away from the police…they’re running to the police.”

To Serve And Protect

Mike and the team swing into to Canton Ohio, home of the football hall of fame, to get to know Officer LaMar Sharpe and the "Be a Better Me Foundation" a movement that encourages and empowers inner city youth by providing access to positive role models.

Posted by Returning The Favor on Monday, July 23, 2018

Indeed, Officer Sharpe is one of myriad cops who discreetly go about enhancing lives of those on their watch, wherever that may be. Like the myriad dirty jobs Rowe performed, police work is a thankless role. But cops do not enter the police profession for gratitude and glory. Simply, they do it motivated by doing the right thing and wishing others the same honesty and integrity.

Someone decided to bring Sharpe’s efforts to the fore, so that he could receive help with an extraordinary goal of making his “Be a Better Me Foundation” project an official entity with its own digs from which to operate. The entire notion epitomizes paying-it-forward concepts. Besides, Rowe gets to expose the soulful side of figures like the impressively-strapped Sharpe and, as Rowe puts it, “…make ’em cry like big babies.” Sharpe held back tears for a brief while…then let it go when he entered his newly-appointed facility, the lease of which is advance-paid for the first two years of operation, compliments of the RTF team.

The cool thing about the principles behind the “Returning The Favor” crew is that they seek out folks who are doing wonderful things without any expectations, the givers who have no getting attached to their motives, yet deserve the world in return for what they have done for perfect strangers needing guidance.

Officer Sharpe’s gist is to be present as a positive male role model for children who lack such a figure in their lives. He exceeds that objective; Rowe and company noticed, as did whoever wrote the show’s producers, foretelling Sharpe’s storyline.

As mentioned previously, this one is about a few folks befitting our “Celebrating Heroes” genre. Having served as a policeman, I know the administrative technicalities, political binds, and routine prohibitions of police work. For police executives overseeing the Canton, Ohio cops, gratitude is extended for seeing a great feat and supporting it with the trust citizens expect from law enforcement institutions. I’m fairly certain several documents had to be signed since official police officers operating city vehicles with Mike Rowe under the auspices of omnipresent crimefighters required consideration(s).

Being a huge liability-conscious guy, I do not wish to contradict myself and compromise my principles…but readily admit that sometimes the old-school way is just the right cup of tea to get the job done. The “Be a Better Me Foundation” seeks to expand throughout the United States, as does the “Returning The Favor” crew bringing you unheralded human beings doing good wherever they stand. Wish to nominate a do-gooder befitting a helping hand for providing service above self?

The opinions expressed here by contributors are their own and are not the view of OpsLens which seeks to provide a platform for experience-driven commentary on today's trending headlines in the U.S. and around the world. Have a different opinion or something more to add on this topic? Contact us for guidelines on submitting your own experience-driven commentary.
Stephen Owsinski

Stephen Owsinski is an OpsLens Content Manager and Contributor. Owsinski is a retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer. Follow Stephen on Twitter @uniformblue.

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