Suppose that you are going about your day. You are comfortable, in your element. Then, when you least expect it, something entirely unexpected happens. It might be a car accident or a fall down a flight of stairs. Maybe something has been stolen from you. Maybe it is a medical emergency. Whatever the unexpected event is, you know exactly what to do – if you have your phone, you will call 911. Help will be on the way. It is something that we all take for granted. If we are in desperate need, there are people who will help us. They will help us, even if it means those professionals are putting their own wellbeing at risk. They will help us whether it is day or night.
Six years ago, I started volunteering as a chaplain with our local police department. Since then, I have had the privilege of working closely with law enforcement and other first responders as they go call-to-call. What might be an emergency for you or for me is a normal day of work for a police officer or a firefighter. The things that the rest of us run away from, our first responders rush toward.
In the church, we talk often about vocation. It’s a fancy word that reminds us that the work that we do, especially when it is the work that we are meant to do, makes an enormous difference in our world. It brings healing, peace, and hope. Among all the people I have known in our town, our first responders have been the group of people I have seen most regularly rise to the occasion to bring healing to our city.
There are a lot of conversations happening in our society about policing and justice. Truly, there are many issues that demand change. A more just society is something that we should always be working toward as Americans. I have noticed that a lot of the conversations about law enforcement that are happening currently miss an important element: policing is a difficult job done overwhelmingly by men and women with good intentions. That doesn’t mean that cops are always perfect or that our justice system doesn’t warrant examining, but a lot of the rhetoric out there is so inflammatory that I hope that you will take a step back, for just a second.
In our own town, an officer is helping assist EMTs carry a person on a stretcher out of a basement. Another officer is across town breaking bad news. A third might well be enforcing the traffic laws that, while we all complain about them, still manage to keep us safe. All are ready to respond if they are needed for the unforeseen crisis. Always. Beneath the uniform is a human being who has embraced an exceedingly difficult calling. Those who do it well deserve our thanks.