DeMarino, Sullivan, Seals, Carr, Brewster, Clardy, Voth, Hawkins, Jacobs, Latu. Say their names and pray for their loved ones.
As I write this, ten dedicated community servants have lost their lives in just the first half of the month of December. In a month that should be filled with giving, joy, and selflessness; these ten heroes made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our communities, our rights, and our nation.
Every time we lose one of our brothers or sisters, it is a horrible tragedy. We search for reason in it, but we are always left with knowing there is evil out there and the world is less perfect without them. We are also renewed by the beauty of the human spirit, demonstrated by the love and support that our community shows in the aftermath. It is always there, it is just easy to forget when we see so much ugliness every day.
I want each of us to take a second out of our day and remember why we have dedicated time away from our families in order to protect others. For me, it was because it was all I knew. I was raised by people who believed in looking out for others. If you can, then you do. While I am now retired, I see officers every single day fighting the good fight. They come in all shapes, sizes, races, genders, and backgrounds. They are all different, but each has an identical purpose running through their soul. I will relate it to the thin blue line that runs through each of you. It isn’t something you just stand with, it is something that is part of you. Every officer I see made the same choice I did at one point. I see them and am filled with hope and worry. They are policing in challenging times, but not impossible times. There are seconds of every day where someone else has driven past and been thankful for those officers, whether the officer saw them or not.
Once I received a magazine that said “when seconds count” on it. I was immediately struck with the thought, “When don’t seconds count?” In fact… is there a particular second that goes by that doesn’t really matter? I was taken to a moment where I was at an intersection. The light turned green so I could make the turn and I dropped my phone. I reached down to get it, and then looked up to proceed into the intersection. An 18-wheeler went whizzing by southbound, after running the red light. Those “seconds” likely saved my life. I remember during a psychology class the instructor said, “A person who commits suicide only felt “bad enough” for that one second.” Think of all the seconds leading up that mattered. There were 60 seconds that mattered a great deal to me in 2011; violently ending with a split-second decision to pull the trigger. That split-second gave me thousands more with my family. I know that there were approximately 18 seconds when my son asked me to look at something and I told him I was too busy. I then spent 30 seconds feeling guilty and 180 seconds oohing and ahhing over his creation. He will spend thousands of seconds remembering that his mother loved him, well after he’s done being a teenager anyway.
There are several seconds I wish I would have used to think when sending a few text messages. There are many seconds I could have used to throw my water bottle in the trash. Those “saved” seconds are staring me in the face every day when I get into my car and see the ridiculous pile on the passenger floorboard. I think that tomorrow I will use about 600 seconds to clean out my car. My kids know that 3 seconds are really 30 seconds…
Are there seconds in your day that you wish you could get back? How many seconds have you wasted regretting some event or decision? Perhaps that time would be better spent forgiving yourself. Maybe that forgiveness should go towards someone else. Make no mistake, I never forget, but it is important to forgive. My grandmother used to tell me that I should think about what I was upset about (when arguing with my husband) and decide how important it “really” was. Honestly, it’s never really “that” important. Was it so important that I would leave without saying goodbye? When he leaves for work, my law enforcement spouse says, “see ya in a little bit.” There is no goodbye, never has been. I never put much thought into that, but it is his way of looking forward. Looking backwards, or being pessimistic certainly seems silly as I sit here and write about it.
So many wasted seconds. They are wasted because we are all so fortunate to wake up each day. You go forward and selflessly serve your people. You protect those who cannot protect themselves. Each of those ten did the same thing. Each of those ten spent their last second serving their communities and the thin blue line we all hold so closely. Take a second and really process that.
Tell your family or friends, “See ya in a little bit” next time you are walking away. Always move forward and think ahead. The stuff in the rear view mirror is full of lessons learned, joy, and sorrow. None of it should be weighing you down, as it will only slow you down. The weight of the job can be unbearable at times. Those are the times when you call a friend, make plans to get together, go for a walk or a run, pet your dog. Take a second for yourself. Be proud of who you are and what you do. The job does not rob you of your seconds. You give them freely, that is your choice. But you should only give up the ones you have to, at the moment they are needed. Your choice is a noble one and you will be thanked and celebrated for it. One day you will sit at home, retired, and your paycheck will magically arrive after your dedicated service has concluded. It might feel amazing and it might be unsettling. Make sure that when you get to that well deserved point, you remember all the good you did and let go of the regrets. I happen to think that EVERY second counts. I am going to focus on spending them more wisely.