About three hours before the conclusion of my work shift, my dispatcher sent me to a crash -- a roll-over crash. The first thing I thought to pray was, "God, please don't let it be a drunk." (I hate drunks. I love arresting them, but they're crybabies and whiners and I get fed up with them quickly!) When I arrived on the scene of the crash, I met the young driver, about 23 years old, who was standing next to his overturned car. Internally, I had already judged him: "How does someone roll his car on a straight-away unless he's an idiot?" Externally, I asked him, "What happened?"
Boy, was I ever in for a piece of humble pie surprise!
The young man calmly, quietly, and politely responded, "I was distracted by this balloon in my car, and I lost control." That's it. No lying. No swearing. Nothing. Just an honest-to-goodness decent guy. He showed me the single foil balloon tied to a string. He shyly said, "I was going to my friend's house with this balloon and those flowers", as he pointed at a small bouquet of crushed flowers strewn in the freeway grass next to his wrecked car.
I asked, "Oh yeah, to give to your girlfriend?"
"Sort of. I'm going to see if my long-time friend will be my girlfriend."
Gulp. Now I felt bad for the poor guy. He said he was deliberating in the first place whether or not to give the girl the balloon, thinking it would be "too much." Of course, he didn't want to overdo it, he simply wanted to impress. He said, "The irony of it is that the florist convinced me to get the balloon, and the balloon is what distracted my driving."
Let me pause here to describe the kid. He was clean cut with a goofy tee shirt, slightly-sagging blue jeans (because he's a tad bit overweight) with the cuffs scraping on the ground, and raggety black "Chucks" on his feet. Based on the some of the books strewn about, I could tell he was really into computers and UFO's. So, we're talking about the kind of kid who probably wasn't too popular, and probably doesn't get out much.
Back to the story. On the way to his parents' house, I asked what made him so sure he wanted to attempt taking his and his friend's relationship to the next level of being exclusive. He said, "We get each other's jokes, we like the same things, she's attractive. (Pause) And when I'm with her, I want only to make her happy. And if I go out with another girl, I compare my date to her."
We arrived at his house, so I helped him gather his belongings from my patrol car. He said he could handle it all, so I handed what I grabbed to him and he said, "Thank you." His hands were filled with pens, highlighters, broken eyeglasses, money, a bouquet of crushed flowers, and a balloon tied to a string. I watched silently as he quietly shuffled away toward the door, wondering what could possibly be traversing his mind amidst his whirlwind of emotions. The door opened and closed; he entered the house. No wave good-bye, just a quiet escape. But I wasn't offended. I sat in his driveway for a moment and prayed that God would in some way bless him. Then I drove away.
And that's when it hit me...like a two ton hammer. "You selfish jerk!"
-- Why was my first prayer, "Please don't let it be a drunk" when it should have been, "God, please let this person be ok." After all, he's somebody's son, somebody's brother...somebody's long-time friend and companion. I would be "crushed" if it was my wife or sons in his position, so maybe it would be nice if was "crushed" for those who love him.
-- I wish police work didn't make me so calloused toward people. Sometimes, I feel like a fine-tuned, heartless robot...only concerned about my feelings, and whether or not I'll be inconvenienced. I too often see people as something less than people -- people without feelings, hurts, desires, joys, or fears. Maybe I see people like I see myself.
God, thank You for the balloon tied to the string today. You taught me a lot about puting others' needs ahead of my own; about the person I really am inside; and about what it means to love and reach out to hurting people. Thank You, and Sorry.