I sat in Mass a couple of times over the Christmas Holidays and oddly (given the season) my mind wandered to Police Officers.
My mental wanderings began simply enough, noting that a retired police officer was doing the mass readings, the teenage son of another officer was the altar server, and how the wife of a detective was serving communion. Within the pews were other active duty and retired police officers, detectives, commanders, and their families.
I am certain my mind wandered due in large part to the seemingly unending news surrounding police agencies nationwide. Without citing the litany of specific current events making headlines, creating controversy, and leading to dialog and debate; it is clear that Police Officers are currently in a spotlight of sorts.
Many are using that spotlight to cast the profession as an ugly, broad-brushed, abstract painting of despair and gloom, in need of all manner of reform. Given the country in which we live, that is a right I respect, even when the message is one I strongly reject.
Police Officers deserve our thanks.
We, the citizens of this country, ask Police Officers to uphold the laws that we, the citizens of this country, have enacted. At a more granular level, we expect them to provide order within our society—to protect us from being robbed, to help track down rapists, to investigate murders, stop drug dealers from selling to our kids, keep gangs from over-running the community, and the list continues……In short, we ask them to do a job that we see as necessary for having a functioning, safer society.
Why these thoughts came to me at Christmas Mass, I do not know. It could be from a Christmas Eve many years ago, when, working in private security, I arrested a shoplifter who was an escapee from Jackson prison and pulled a knife on me as we entered the security office, cutting my hands and then biting me on the arm. Were it not for an off-duty officer immediately responding to the commotion (for which the State Police later issued him a Commendation) it surely would have turned out much uglier for me.
It could be because it was an off-duty detective at a Mass some years ago who recognized and involved himself in an incident where I excused myself from the church sanctuary due to an individual arriving and violating a personal protection order (a court order to stop stalking/threats). The Officer’s quick reaction and call for assistance ensured resolution to a situation that could have easily escalated out of control.
Or, maybe it was a news piece the day of Mass, covering the funeral of a New York City Police Officer who was shot and killed just five days before this Christmas that may have made my mind wander during Mass. Also making me think back to my own father, a police officer who worked during the “race riots” of the 1960’s and patrolled streets trying to ensure a safe community during a time of great upheaval.
From a religious perspective, for believers, the Christmas season is calling us to celebrate the birth of Jesus. In doing so, believers attend church services and engage in events and traditions that recognize the joy and thanksgiving of the Infant’s birth.
I was able to celebrate that Christmas Miracle this season and consider it an added bonus that I also was able to connect a similar joy, thanksgiving, and appreciation for Police Officers in the process. They are truly a gift to all of us seeking peace in a law-abiding society—every day of every year. They deserve our Thanks now more than ever.