As I type this, the “news” for the past two days has focused on strife; conflict; crime; violence; riots; protests… general discord. The advertisements (on television) in between the news have focused on Black Friday (starting on Thanksgiving Thursday more and more), Cyber Monday, how many days of shopping left until Christmas and… well, you get the idea. With that combination slapping me in the face I got online and stated surfing through Facebook and Twitter. As part of my job description I get to manage those social media sites for Officer.com, and what I see is slightly different than what’s on television. After all, there aren’t (as many) advertisements for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, etc. Instead there is a mix of news and opinion about strife, conflict, crime, violence, riots, protests, etc. and positive posts of support for our law enforcement family; the Thin Blue Line.
I was struck by this though: isn’t it amazing that amidst all this turmoil our family still comes together to mutually support each other, care for each other, watch each others’ back and continue to serve the communities we’ve sworn to protect? No matter what’s going on in Missouri, and in fact, seemingly in spite of it, we keep on keeping on, doing what we do and surviving each shift to get home to our families. Why? Because that’s who we are. Our actions define us. In spite of the hatred flowing out of Ferguson… in spite of the undeserved criticism we are so often the target of… in spite of a manipulative mainstream media that constantly brushes us all as evil with a broad stroke… in spite of a sometimes general lack of appreciation for the risks we take and the sacrifices we make… In spite of ALL of that, we keep protecting and serving. We hang tough… together… family.
That said, as you work or stay home, recognize that – either way – you get to spend the day with family. Yes, we’d all prefer to stay home with our spouses, parents, siblings, in-laws (groan), children and any other family members that we share the day with, but if we have to work we need to realize that we can enjoy our family there too. We may not love everyone on our squad (every squad has THAT guy), but for damn sure and certain, we’re happy to see every one of them if we need help. Whether we like them or not, we’ll risk our lives for them and they for us. THAT is what binds us. THAT is what makes us a family.
On one of the many Facebook pages I follow I saw a meme that said, “Blood doesn’t always make family. Fighting side by side does too.” Isn’t that the truth? I was lucky enough to be born into a big family with six brothers and two sisters. I’m blessed that four of my brothers are service veterans and one of them is a brother cop. We understand some of the same things. We’re not family JUST by blood but by service and sacrifice as well.
I know many a brother or sister cop who will moan and groan about having to work on Thanksgiving. Truth be told, if I had to don a uniform and work the street, I’d likely bitch a bit as well. But it probably wouldn’t be as bad as I imagined it being. DOING it wouldn’t be as bad as imagining all the crap I was going to have to deal with during a shift.
Think about it for a few minutes… working a holiday is the perfect opportunity to spread good will. Sure, you might have to pull someone over, and that’s the perfect opportunity to give them a warning and a happy holiday wish for a safe day. Sure, you might have to deal with some practical joke from one of your workmates, but that’s just ammo for future use and if it adds levity to the day, even at your expense, it’s better than boredom or sorrow. Sure, your Thanksgiving meal might be something from a drive through, if you even get time to eat it, but you can enjoy that food even as you think about the blessings of a big meal your family is able to enjoy safe at home.
What I’ve realized after over thirty years in a uniform is that a guy named Shawn I’ve known for a long time was absolutely right in 1988 when he told me that EVERYTHING is a matter of perspective. If you have to work on Thanksgiving you can either be miserable or blessed; happy or sad; spreading cheer or supporting misery. If you have to work anyway, why not do it in a blessed, happy, cheerful way? I promise you it will make the day go faster and it will foster the feeling of family you have with your workmates.
Stand fast on the Thin Blue Line this Thanksgiving… and Christmas too. Take a few minutes to be thankful for what you have and the ability to sacrifice as you do for others. Appreciate that you were raised in a way that created the person you are who is selfless enough to do the job, even when folks sometimes don’t appreciate it. Look around at those you work with and appreciate the sacrifices they have made… the sacrifices they make daily… and the sacrifices they are willing to make FOR YOU (yes, even THAT guy).
Stay safe and get through your shift this Thanksgiving. When you have… be thankful for it!