First Responders: Gifts of Service

By Lawrence “Mack in Texas” Hall (Rated G)

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools

-Kipling, “If”

Finding a police car parked in front of our country estate along Beer Can Road and County Dump Extension one morning was a surprise. Usually there are only a few rabbits inviting the hawks to breakfast, a tire-flattened possum or two, and the jewel-like glint of fresh beer cans in the morning sun.  We later learned that there was a search on for someone who had been called into court and had not responded appropriately. In the event, we learned that there was more than that. The following interruption to the neighborhood’s rural tranquility lasted some 24 hours.

When the Metternichian state of repose is disrupted by fire, flood, false ideologies, or criminal behavior, the causation of a moment can require a prolonged and patient rebuilding of civilization, even when that is on a local level.

This resolution requires the prolonged endeavors of skilled men and women of energy, professionalism, and a sense of mission.

This day-night-day event required, to the best of my limited knowledge, game wardens, medics, state police, city police, sheriffs and deputies from two counties, police vehicles, police foot patrols, horsemen, search dogs and their handlers, rescue vehicles, helicopters, drones, base establishments in two counties, stand-by service by fire departments and others, and gallons of coffee.

In an aside, let us note here that our area sheriffs and other law enforcement leaders never appear on teevee wearing tailored golly-gee-whiz pressed uniforms with brass buttons and shiny ornaments and a bunch of stars on their collars as if they were fleet admirals in The Glorious and Majestic All-Powerful and Ever-Victorious Ruritanian Navy. A proper copper just can’t swan around in all that sartorial nonsense while chasing a meth-cooker through the woods or sorting out a drunken brawl or waiting out a crisis for 24 hours or comforting a weeping mom because her child’s not going to come home.

And now I will get back on task:

Many of our first responders are volunteers, and so in addition to their support-the-family jobs they also serve the community on their own time and often at their own expense.

We need them.

Civilization, grounded on thousands of years of human endeavor and faith and culture, celebrated in music, art, literature, and healthy sport, is at times a rickety structure that requires our constant watch and maintenance. When even a few among us fail to do our part, the failure makes a big mess for others to take care of.

Genesis is clear that we all fall short, and the New Testament is equally clear that there is hope but that we must participate in that hope. Passivity just won’t do.

Kipling reminds us of that in “If,” that marvelous sequence of dependent clauses just as in the Texas Declaration of Independence, reminding us of our failings and our mission. And if we sometimes feel that we are the “worn-out tools,” well, maybe we are, but we still have to do our part for the safety and security of our neighbors and ourselves.

Some among us, our first responders in all the services, are especially good at building up again broken things and broken lives. They truly “…fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,” and we must always remember that.

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