Do you remember when you were a kid and you knew you were growing up because your parents started letting you do more "grown up" things? When I was 14, my dad took me on a ride along in his police car, and I felt so mature.
For most of my childhood, my dad was a plain-clothes police officer. When he was promoted to lieutenant, it meant going back to the uniform, the marked police car, and the shift that needed a lieutenant... the midnight shift. That was an adventure for a home-schooling family. Imagine trying to home-school during the day while your dad was trying to sleep. It wasn't easy. But it was pretty awesome actually getting to see him and spend more time with him. One night, my dad invited me to ride along with him, and I was PUMPED. I don't know what I was expecting to happen, other than feel special that I was riding in the front seat of the police car with my dad while he worked... and maybe he'd let me turn on the lights and siren. Instead, what I got was an awareness of how dangerous his job was.
During the brief time we were out, things were pretty quiet. We had fun riding through neighborhoods and businesses, checking to make sure things were safe. But then he noticed a car that was disobeying the law, and I could feel the shift in his attention from "Fun Story" Dad to "I've Got A Job To Do" Dad. We pulled the car over and before He got out, he showed me a button on the computer that communicated with Dispatch. "If I get shot or something bad happens," he said calmly but seriously, "I want you to push this button, keep the doors locked, and stay down. This button will call all the police officers to come help."
It was at that moment that it really sunk in the seriousness of what my dad did. It was always a reality that something could happen to Dad. But in that moment, it sunk in just how much I took him coming home every day for granted.
I remember watching nervously as my dad had a conversation with the driver. I could hear the tone of my dad's voice begin to change, and I felt nervous for the driver because Dad began using the "you’ve crossed the line" voice. The “you’ve crossed the line" voice was when we R-E-A-L-L-Y disobeyed. As much of a back talker that I was, I knew enough not to test that. When the driver talked back to him, I was floored. DIDN’T HE KNOW THE YOU’VE CROSSED THE LINE VOICE?? I remember holding my breath to see my dad's response because I had no clue what came after that voice. The answer, in this case, was a warning.
When my dad got back in the police car, I remember breathing a sigh of relief. Getting the opportunity to walk a mile (or in my case, drive a few miles) in my dad's shoes made me grateful that he took me to work with him so I could see a little more closely what his job was like. Recently, I had jury duty that took me on an hour’s drive up to Towson for a few days. For years, my dad made the trek to and from Towson, each day. After three days of the commute, I came home, hugged him, and thanked him for making that drive for our family every single day. All these years later, God is still showing me the sacrifices my parents made for me. The ride along was just the start.