This is a scene that was repeated in neighborhoods all across America this morning.
A Husband or Wife, Dad or Mom, Son, Daughter, Brother, Sister, Partner, Friend - standing by their mobile office, preparing for another workday in a world where they are both loved and reviled simply because of the shirt on their backs.
Our neighborhood may be similar to yours - quiet tree-lined streets where children ride their bikes and neighbors wave as they pass each other walking the dog or taking their morning run.
Or it could be very different - urban, rural, condos, farmhouses - it really doesn’t matter, every neighborhood across America is full of people that my husband and people like him have sworn to protect with their lives.
At our July 4th block party, our neighbors told us they would miss seeing the police car in front of our house at the end of the month.
It won’t be there anymore because after 27 years in that uniform, driving that car, my husband is retiring.
I only have to witness this necessary ritual 20 more days.
Today, it seems like an eternity away.
Our neighbors told me that they’ll miss my husband’s police car parked there because it made them feel safe.
Sheltered from the random and mostly petty crimes that occur in every neighborhood.
And while that may be true - it certainly slows people down - I won’t miss it at all.
Because when he turns that car in and takes off his uniform and vest for the last time, the targets they create will be gone.
And I will be able to breathe freely once more.
In all honesty, it’s only been the past few years that I’ve felt a heightened sense of concern for my husband and his peers.
You see, they are/were my peers too.
Having done the job myself, walked in those boots, dealing with the sometimes unspeakable events in our society, I was comfortable in the knowledge that it was simply his job. Because it had been mine.
No different than the doctor, lawyer, cook or bricklayer.
A chosen profession like any other.
But one in which it’s professionals are well-educated, well-trained, well-armed against 99.9% of the circumstances and threats they are faced with every day.
I can remember telling my Mother - who worried and prayed for me every day - that I was in no more danger than anyone else simply walking out their front door. And I was more highly trained.
Only part of that statement is true today as the tone and tenor in our nation has changed dramatically.
My years in patrol had me working through a huge sea-change in policing in our country. I watched the LA riots with the rest of my peers and was on duty the night the Rodney King verdict was announced.
There was a palpable shift in the atmosphere that night and in the days following - shattered trust on both sides of the badge.
The same type of shattered trust that happens every time we allow others to drive a narrative when they don’t have or even care to know all the facts.
Human nature dictates that we selfishly cling to our own version of truth.
But a personal truth without facts always leads to disaster.
Many years have passed since I hung up my badge and gun belt, and in those years, the era of personal truth has largely replaced the era of personal responsibility.
The everyday demons we face in our nation today have been born of the idea that one truth, one set of ideals, one set of ‘rights’ is greater than another.
We regularly assert our rights and cry foul and lob insults and spew hatred largely protected by the anonymity of a computer screen.
In most cases, a device that protects the sender from the physical reality of the chaos their words create.
Because words always spur action. Somewhere in someone.
“…the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.
But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.” - James 3:5b-6
And when the words are hate-filled, fact-empty vitriol against what many don’t choose to even try to understand, it creates hate-filled sometimes violent action against those like my husband who have sworn to serve and protect us.
Sometimes those who wear the badge dishonor the badge.
And it’s shameful and tragic.
Anyone who wears the badge in honor and pride wants nothing more than to see justice done and the dishonorable punished.
And I know.
There are groups of people in our nation who even today in many places are treated as less than; unworthy.
And it’s shameful and tragic.
Anyone who truly loves their neighbor should want nothing more than to see the injustice of it end.
And because it’s easy - and comfortable - we lay blame at the feet of anyone who represents our version of the ‘enemy’.
One group feels no protection from the police car parked on the quiet tree-lined street.
One group feels no understanding from the people who are seeking justice at any cost.
But the answer we seek is largely rejected by all because it requires a heart change.
Because we are all a hopelessly selfish and entitled people.
“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
and desperately wicked.
Who really knows how bad it is?
But I, the Lord, search all hearts
and examine secret motives…” - Jeremiah 17:9-10a
The divide that’s happened in our country can’t be legislated away, because no law can rule the human heart.
The hate that is pervasive in the air is born of both the worst type of selfishness and the deepest kind of self-loathing.
We would rather point the finger and place the blame anywhere but at ourselves.
We rail at our leaders and blame inanimate objects when the real enemy is within.
As a nation we collectively need to take responsibility for our individual thoughts and actions. But when we truly look inside ourselves, we don’t always like what we see.
It’s just easier not to acknowledge it.
And ignoring it will never heal us, not individually, not as a nation.
Change will come when we set aside our pride and our demands and our ‘rights’ and begin to really see others as they are - uniquely created by God in his image.
We all are.
You may not share my Christian beliefs, and that’s your choice, but I can’t see how anyone who truly wants to witness a different sea-change in our nation today would refuse to step away from their prideful circle long enough to esteem others as they deserve, and listen.
And love them in their humanity even if you don’t agree with them.
We can rage against the divide, the anger, the hate that pervades our world with intense energy, but if we are choosing not to show love and respect and kindness to others, then we are choosing to remain in that pit and we are the problem.
For me personally, 20 days stands between me and an exhale. Our active law enforcement days will be behind us, individually and as a family.
While my heart will always bleed blue for my brothers and sisters still in the work, deeper still runs a hope for healing and for a new beginning in our nation.
Hate will never heal, but Love surely can.