Most of us learned in grade school that the first Thanksgiving celebration in America was held in 1621 at the Plymouth Plantation. Using that information we can see that Thanksgiving has been celebrated in the United States for almost 400 years... at least.
That's four hundred years worth of friends and family gathering around a big table (or sometimes two or three, depending on the size of the gathering) to offer up thanks to whatever deity they worship for all the blessings of which they are about to partake. Usually those blessings include foods from all of the recent harvest (which is why early Thanksgiving holidays were called Harvest Festivals) along with the meat from animals recently hunted.
As a kid I remember friends who celebrated Thanksgiving with meats that included turkey, pheasant, venison, goose, duck and more. In today's America I'd venture to guess that most families have turkey on their table, store-bought and roasted without any stuffing inside (gee, thanks to modern medical technology which says this is another unsafe-no-matter-how-good-it-tastes practice). I'm sure, given the self-reliant, agricultural and hunting character traits of our American populace today, that there's plenty of freshly-hunted venison, turkey, goose, etc on the tables as well.
Here's my thought and question though: of all those Thanksgiving celebrations, how many of them are missing the mom, dad, sister or brother who is out wearing a uniform and protecting our streets while the rest of us sit around and stuff our faces? I don't mean that in a negative way at all, so please don't take it that way. When I've been out on the street on holidays I certainly want my family to participate in the traditional celebrations, knowing full well that I will as the circumstances permit.
However, I felt it was important as we enter this holiday season, to recognize that the men and women in the law enforcement profession today will likely not get to enjoy what so many take for granted: a large hot meal followed by desert in good company in a secure environment. Unfortunately, when so many family members get together - at least in some families - there are folks who don't get along so well. Mix in fatigue, lots of food, and (sometimes) too much alcohol or some drugs, and you get a family celebration that is all of a sudden not so celibratory. In fact, it can be downright violent.
That's where our missing family members in the LE profession get called in to do their jobs. They get the 911 call for the violent domestic, the unwanted guest, or the family fight over who gets the drumstick. While the rest of us sit around and enjoy the holiday, those in uniform are out stopping drunk drivers from killing themselves or others; responding to calls for shoplifters - and sometimes paying for the food for the shoplifter who is discovered to be a starving person with no family. Yes... compassion runs strong this time of year.
For those of you who have family members who are law enforcement professionals, I encourage you to remember a few things:
- They do what they do not because they don't want to be around you but because they have a strong sense of duty that drives them.
- They will do all they can to come home to you but they may not be in the best of moods when they get there. Be patient with them.
- Leftovers are always appreciated, but it's special if their leftovers are already set aside on their own plate so that all they have to do is warm it up.
- Although it's a holiday for the rest of us, it's a work day for them and they don't need to feel guilty about not being home. Support them by letting them know how proud you are of what they do.
For those of you who proudly wear a badge or star and have to work on the holidays, I encourage you to remember a few things as well:
- Your family and friends are waiting for you to end your shift; to come home and celebrate, albeit a tad late. Do what you have to to go home to them.
- When the stupidity of criminals and silliness of others starts to drag your spirits down, take a mental health break to remember why you do what you do; and what's waiting for you at home. Don't let the job get you down.
- Criminals don't take holidays off and they have no sense of compassion. Be careful out there!
With that I will wish all of you a Happy Thanksgiving (fairly early), or a Happy Harvest Festival, or a Happy Whatever-Else-You-May-Celebrate. All I ask is that while you're celebrating you remember the public safety folks who have to work. They do it to keep YOU safe too. Include them in your prayers and if you get the chance to offer them a plate, do so. They'll likely be surprised and appreciative. Some of them won't get home to their families until well after everyone's bed time and that plate you offer them may be the only one they get to share with another kind soul.