If you know anything about my story, you know that 9/11/2008 was a life-altering day. I had taken time that day to remember the sacrifices of that day. A gratitude for our law enforcement and fire crews really “came to life” so to speak. That evening I called my local department (Huber Heights, OH) on 9/11 and asked if they could let the officers and fire fighters know my appreciation for them. I was informed that they had not had that request in over 14 years. So that’s when I decided that I would reach as many as I could and let them know they are cared about.
In the more than three years since, I’ve had some really memorable experiences, like my first “lights and siren” trip in Trotwood, racing to Pizza Hut. I’ve learned some lessons, like why some cops won’t eat at a drive-through in uniform. And why they have to sit with their back in a corner and facing all the doors. I’ve met some really great people. And have helped say good-bye to others.
I’ve grown a lot as a person in that time, and my police and fire friends have helped make me aware of what the world is REALLY like. I had some home-made desert at the Sugarcreek Township Fire Department (which if you hear that some firefighters really know how to cook…listen).
They have let me into their world. Some were hesitant at first, but I understand. I have had discussions and when they find out who I am , they can relax (at least a little, because a cop never relaxes on duty).
I’ve had my perspective changed at funerals and memorials. I was privileged to hear Paula Kalaman speak at the Law Enforcement Memorial in 2011. Her son was a Centerville officer killed in the “Line of Duty” in 1998. Sacrifice. Pain. But also of healing. You never forget, but you learn to live, sometimes in spite of the pain.
I have adopted these fine individuals into my heart and life. And in the process of helping them, it’s helped me. In the process of comforting, honoring, and encouraging them, I’ve received from them those same things. There’s a quote by Joseph Campbell that really rings true, and it goes like this: “Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.”
I sometimes think of myself as a missionary. Some people go to far away lands to reach people for the Kingdom of God. I get to stay right here and do that. I don’t do sermons from a pulpit, but I encourage from notes, bring peace in hospitals, comfort at funerals, and help by being there.
I’m looking forward to reaching more of these fine people in 2012 and spending more time with them.