I was off for several days last week, so I spent a good deal of time reading assigned material for an upcoming retreat that is part of a two year residency that has spiritual formation as its focus. In other words, when this two year experience is over I should be a better person! (Actually there is a lot more to it than that…) By Friday afternoon, I was tired of reading about being a spiritual person. I was ready to get out in the field and practice what I was reading about.
I changed clothes and headed to the police department for a Friday night ride out on the late shift. I never fail to learn valuable lessons and have ample opportunity to serve people in my chaplaincy role. And that is especially true when I riding out on a busy shift.
Bear in mind this is the Friday before Christmas. In a very short period of time, I met three people that would not be home for Christmas. The first one person was a man from
that was involved in a minor accident. His English was marginal, so I used my equally marginal Spanish to assist the officers in gathering necessary information for an accident report. He is here working in an effort to better support his family back in Mexico . His family will remain in Mexico while he works here. It occurred to me…he won’t be home for Christmas. Mexico
We then made a call that involved an individual that was having some emotional problems. I will not divulge any details to protect that person’s privacy. I will simply say that the person was showing signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I am not qualified to diagnose such serious disorders, but the symptoms were present. As we left the location where we interviewed this person, it occurred to me that another neighbor’s Christmas would be anything but normal. It is likely that he won't be home for Christmas.
And then there was still another call that involved a citizen struggling with serious mental issues. This situation involved someone that is not a permanent resident of our city. The problems at hand were complex. There were multiple layers. And there was very little we could do on the Friday night before Christmas for a person that was fundamentally homeless and without a support system. Another person that would not be home for Christmas…. And I wondered if someone in a distant state would miss this family member at the Christmas dinner table.
I went home late that night. I walked into a living room with a well lit Christmas tree. My boys of course were still up lounging around on the couch with their computers. The sweet aroma of home cooking was lingering in the air. And I thought about three people that would not be home for Christmas.... Reading good books about spiritual formation is a good thing. But getting out in the field is an equally useful exercise if we are to grow in such graces as humility, thanksgiving, and compassion…I think I will be returning to the night shift soon. There is no shortage of work to be done...And I fully realize I have a lot to learn about humility, grace, and compassion.