AnOldSinner is not what one might call a sentimentalist. There are reasons for that, including my childhood, three decades in law enforcement and many years helping others deal with the world they created for themselves. Yet, there are tales from all of those eras that can make AnOldSinner tear up and OneOldCop choke up a bit if not cry. For example, the year my brother and I received our first new bicycles.
Our household was not the most economically stable place to live as a child. Dad was a bit of loose cannon. Jobs, business ventures, income streams, and home addresses came and went on a semi-regular basis. Still, he loved Christmas, and he did everything he could to make Christmas special for our little family. My tenth or eleventh Christmas was one of his best efforts.
For reasons likely related to our nomadic lifestyle, my brother and I never had bicycles. We had tricycles, dad made us a near life-sized rocking horse one time, and there were other fun toys over the years. Having our own bikes were not in the cards until that Christmas. Talk about a surprise! Of course, there was a bit of catch.
We lived in a rural area on a gravel road. We had these beautiful new red bicycles, and could only ride them up and down about a quarter mile of gravel road. Keep in mind this was long before the days of BMX and mountain bikes. These were Schwinn street bikes, and gravel roads were not their friend.
Still, the ruts in the road were relatively smooth, and in a year or so we moved back to a town with paved streets. One of my fondest memories is of us riding as fast as we could up the gravel road to try out our new bikes. It was a typical Texas Christmas, shorts and tee shirt weather, making the day even better.
Fast forward a few decades and bicycles were still a part of my life. I was a street cop in Denton, Texas, and I became a bicycle cop before bikes became standard in U. S. law enforcement. Of course, I was not patrolling on my bicycle as officers started doing later, I was commuting on my bike.
We’d just built our first house, which cost less than most economy cars today. Yet, even with both of us working money was tight. Commuting to work by bicycle kept me in shape and saved gas money. It also got a lot of stares when a police officer cycled by on his red ten-speed in full uniform, but bicycles are not part of my Christmas story for that period of my life.
One evening just before Christmas the dispatcher called me to the office. Someone was there asking if Officer Jackson still worked for the department. Those sorts of calls came in occasionally, usually because someone wanted to know about an incident or wanted to complain about something. This one was different.
A nice looking young man was sitting in the lobby when I arrived. It turned out he was home for Christmas break from his studies at Baylor University. It also turned out I met him and some of his friends when he was in junior high school.
Some of them filched different sorts of alcoholic beverages from their folks, and they were sneaking out to have a party at another kid’s house whose parents were out of town. Instead of a party, they had a ride in a squad car, and an awkward wait at the PD until their parents could retrieve them.
At the time, I gave each of them a business card and told them they could call me if I could help them in the future. This young man kept the card. He also remembered the little bit of a lecture I’d given them. Unfortunately, he said, some of his friends did not keep my card or heed my advice.
He came by that evening to wish me a Merry Christmas and thank me for the way I handled them. He said I changed his opinion of police officers, and the incident was a wake-up call. He was confident it helped him make it to college. It was touching, and nice to hear until he told me he was studying to be a lawyer. Oh, well! You can’t have everything.
I wish all of my Christmas memories were like the bicycle story and the visit from the young man. That would be nice, but that is not the way life works. As I wrote in Ghosts of Christmas Past and Not So Silent Night, police officers and other first responders know holidays, even Christmas, can be anything but blissful at times. Which brings me to the point of this piece.
The Christmas my brother and I received our first brand new bicycles I was a newly baptized Christian. I had a crazy home, but I knew Jesus loved me. He loved me so much, he gave his life just so I could come to faith in Him and be saved. Between that Christmas and the Christmas when the young man dropped by to see me, life, family, and the reality of what police officers see and do every day drove the faith of that boy on the bicycle into hiding. By the time, the young man came to see me, God was a childhood fantasy like Santa Claus.
Decades later in December of 1993, I was given a gift that put all my other Christmases into the proper perspective. I had done my best to abandon God, but He had never forsaken me. Instead, He waited until I was in the right place, and in the right frame of mind to listen. Then, He put people in my life who helped make Christmas 1993 the best one in almost forty years. It was the Christmas I went to my knees in prayer. I let down the walls and asked Him back into my heart.
This Christmas, please remember there are others like I was at that time. They are lost but think they are in control and too strong to need God. They have seen too much pain, and cannot trust a God that would let those things happen. They did things they believe can never be forgiven, and they are afraid of being rejected by the God they once thought loved them.
This Christmas pray for those who lost their way, and if you have the chance, reach out to one of them. You might be the one touch needed to bring them to their knees.
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