First, I again want to say thank you to all the Chiefs, Sheriffs, Officers, Administrators, fire fighters, medics, and fellow Chaplains who have made it possible for me to distribute this message.
I wish you and your families a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. For those of you in stations or cars or behind the mic working during the holidays, we appreciate the sacrifices you and your family are making while ensuring our safety and security. It does not go unappreciated or unnoticed.
With this email, I want to talk a little bit about encouragement. Sometimes encouragement is in short supply, especially in our line of work. So what can we do to fill that void?
- Get involved with local groups in the area that support Public Safety. There are lots of groups out there that have missions to support. Groups like Wives Behind The Badge, auxiliary chapters of police or fire unions, or other civic groups. Don’t forget about places like churches, hospitals or schools that host local events. There are a multitude of reasons to go to these events. You can see that people really do appreciate what you do, and also it encourages them to do more of the events (it’s discouraging to these groups to announce an event and have a small turnout of people they are trying to support).
- Don’t forget about social media. This can be an overlooked area for encouragement (and engagement). There are lots of groups out there like Ohio Going Blue, and pages for the in-person groups we talked about above. Don’t forget about the bloggers and other writers who are supportive of your job. Consider getting involved here to (as long as it falls within your department policy). Give them information to pass to their audience like safety tips in the mall or how to properly fry a turkey. (This may help you in the long run too!)
- Support businesses that support you. Not just for the “perks” or “discounts”, but when businesses are rewarded by more business for being supportive, it encourages more support to be shown. So it is a “win-win scenario” here. (And as a side note, as a policy when I get items free/discounted, I always make sure to thank the manager, and give the waiter/waitress an extra tip. Don’t ever be the subject of a “stingy table” story.)
- Commit to being an “encourager” yourself. When I was in basic training and technical school in the US Air Force, one of my instructors said “If you can’t find an example, be one”. Over 20 years have passed and I have not forgotten the advice of Sergeant Teresa Fountain. Give your co-workers high-fives for a job well done. Pay for the rookie’s dinner sometime. When you see the kids that want to see the lights and sirens, give them a memory of the “cop who smiled” or the crew of firefighters waving from the cab. Have stuffed animals in your vehicle for the times when you run into a child who is afraid or maybe just survived a traumatic event.
- Know people in your organizations or communities. There are plenty of folks who are “good at it” when it comes to encouraging others. Ask them if they’d like to come to a roll call, or ride a long for a shift, or share a meal at the fire house. Build relationships now, so when you (or they) are having a down time, one can help out the other.
- Write your story. Write down every time you have a good experience with a citizen. Did you get thanked for a traffic stop? Were you invited to a cookout by a neighbor after a hard fought fire? Write down all these positive experiences in a notebook and keep it close. Then, when you have one of those down times, you have something to fall back on. Consider sharing some of these stories with others.
During the holidays, I always put in this information, because I know that someone may need it. The holidays are meant to be times of joy, happiness, time with those we love and hope. While it can produce stress for even the best of us, for some of you can be a time of sadness, frustration or depression. It can be hard to balance out what you have to deal with and still know that there are great people in society as well. I also know that it’s hard for us to reach out sometimes (and I’m no exception to this rule). If you find yourself struggling in this holiday season, don’t hesitate to reach out for assistance. Your departments may have Employee Assistance Care, Chaplains, Chiefs, and any other Supervisor available for help. There is also other Clergy and/or even friends for guidance and assistance should you need it. My phone is always on and I’ll make myself available to help you in any way that I can. Call us, grab us after roll call, or send an email. Reach out if you need to.
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and best wishes for 2017. I’ve said it before and will say it again, you all are heroes. I don’t know how often you hear it, but I’m certain it’s not nearly enough.