There are many things I get to see that others don't, just because of my role as a police wife. It is sometimes a blessing and more often a curse to be just outside of the boundary of the thin blue line but also outside the boundary of being a plain old civilian. I feel like I see where the two meet in the ugliest way possible more often than I would like. I see the frustration and anger, the disappointment and distrust either "side" feels towards the "opposing team" on occasion. The fact that the police world and the civilian world often view each other with suspicion just plain bums me out.
But, I get it.
I see from the officer's side. In fact, if I have to pick a team, I will always follow my favorite husband and go team BLUE. But, I see it from the civilian side too. I hear the stories of officers who are just rotten to people when they don't need to be. I've seen it. In fact, I have experienced it myself. There are law enforcement officers who wield their badge (or, as I prefer to term it, their shield) as a weapon to use in whatever way necessary for them to come out on top personally and professionally.
That isn't the point of the shield.
It is meant as a protection to the officer, yes. But, it is also meant as a symbol of service. That shield is supposed to show you that you are in the presence of someone who has committed to honor your life and your freedom, to protect you and anyone else in need of their help. The shield is supposed to mean that you are in the presence of honor and strength and selfless love.
I think that meaning has been forgotten by many who wear it.
But, sometimes I see someone who still remembers. Even if that shield gets scratched or if the public spit on it... even if others who wear the shield look down at one who is wielding it with an honor bound heart... that one remembers and holds onto the honor and continues to serve.
I want to tell you about someone like that today.
If you are expecting me to talk about my favorite cop in the world, well, you are wrong this time. Even though he is one that I know wears that shield to serve and who cares deeply about the community he is sworn to protect, I have a story about another officer who is truly a brother to me. Granted, a brother who tends to yank on my pigtails every chance he gets (and who never fails to tell some off color joke in front of my kids that I have to do damage control over later), but still, a brother.
Let me tell you about my friend Officer Caleb Sickinger.
He's a tall guy. Big bald head. Two eyes and a nose. The usual stuff for faces. He has a quick wit and is pretty skilled with sarcasm. If you aren't careful he'll get you with it. He doesn't pull punches and says what he thinks most of the time (and occasionally that gets him in a bit of a pickle). If I had to describe him in a way I think most people would get, I would say he is a bit of a Walther Matthau type. A bit curmudgeonly, and he may growl a bit when he helps you out, but you know deep down he is a big ol' softy.
He's a helper. I know this because I see it. He doesn't want to make a big deal about it, but he is. He is also a guardian. He'll put himself out just to take care of people, and if you are one of HIS people, you should count yourself very lucky indeed. A personal experience I have with this is last year. Sam and I were sneaking out very early in the morning to go have a baby and my dad was coming over to hang with the other kids. There was going to be a lapse where no adult was there in the wee hours and I asked C if he would do a drive by or so and just make sure things were okay. Well, he went over there and parked his car out front and did reports while he waited for my dad. When my dad's car pulled up, he texted to confirm the vehicle and then he went home (since his shift had ended and he was just hanging out for a short time off the clock after a graveyard shift). It was a little thing that I doubt he thought much of, but it meant a great deal to me.
I know some of you may say that he did that because we are friends and maybe he did, but let me tell you about something he did just a few weeks ago for a stranger.
C was at work and received a call. I don't know the details of the call, but I do know that at the end, a woman had nowhere to go, had been hurt emotionally and perhaps physically and was stranded without even a pair of shoes to her name. Of course, as a police officer, he was bound to help find her shelter while she got through her experience, but what he did next was not required of him. He took this woman inside a little store in town and, with his own money, he bought her some shoes. I'm sure he was gruff about it because he's always a little gruff, but he made her pick some shoes and got her squared away.
What impacts me even more is that I happen to also know that when he was hired a few years ago, he was promised a certain wage after his first few months on the job had passed. When that time came, he was told there was no money to honor that promise, even if that was honored for others. I know he has had to pay for gear that others haven't had to pay for. A few months ago he asked me to sew in a zipper for pants because the police department was refusing to buy him a new pair (even though this is something that has been done for other officers, including my spouse, for years). I know that things have been tight for his family and I know that they have been frustrated and discouraged by it.
I also know other officers and I cannot say confidently that many of them would go that extra mile, use their own lunch money and buy shoes for another person in need. Honestly, he didn't need to do it, I'm sure a social worker could have handled it.
But, he did do it.
I'm pretty sure he did it because that is just what you do for people in his world and that is why he's family to my family. In fact, I'm certain that while I am telling this one story, he has 10 or 20 other stories just like it that no one managed to find out about, because, again, he is big ol' softy at the end of the day.
So, I tell you this story and I think it is a great story about someone who serves. But, that isn't the point of my story. What happened after it is.
Word starts creeping out about this kind act. Some people put the word out to his superior officers so they can make sure he is recognized a bit for what he did. Well, guess what happens?
Not a word. Not a raised eyebrow. Absolutely nothing.
However, the city did give employee of the month to someone who got some more money for our rodeo.
I stand here with my mouth open, just shaking my head. Don't get me wrong, I think it is great that rodeos have money and kudos to that person for doing that, but, huh?
No, it gets better. What C did wasn't even mentioned in considering employee of the month. It wasn't even considered important enough to mention in a meeting or in passing to our city leadership. It just went, unnoticed.
And people wonder why cops can be jerks.
After awhile, people get discouraged. They work hard and do their best and promises of reward are broken. People mistreat them. They are put down and set aside. It isn't right. It isn't fair. It makes me angry. I've experienced that before. I'm sure you have. It is hard to keep working and trying when you see a community focusing on the negative and never seeing the good. It is frustrating when you know that there are people who do see these good acts, who could say something and let the community see the good, but they choose not to. It is disheartening to see the cycle of ignoring the good until people stop offering it over and over again.
Today, I don't want to be a part of it. I don't want to keep stomping around my house being angry because I see someone who should be recognized get ignored once again.
Today, I want to be a part of the change I want to see in my community.
I want to recognize Officer Sickinger for serving another human who was in the midst of one of her worst days. I want to be thankful that he did it without hesitation and that he will continue to be that person.
But, more than that, I want all of you to recognize Officer Sickinger too. He has done a lot of good for his community. He isn't the type to be all flash and pizazz, but he is there. When I set up clothing swaps, he shows up at the end, when no one wants to help, and he cleans up and loads the clothes that we take to the advocate group. When he knows someone is struggling, he won't bake them a cake (I am pretty sure he doesn't know the right end of a mixing bowl, so we should all be grateful for that), but he will tease them a bit and make a little conversation. When a little kid walks up to him, he'll pick that kid up and walk around with them for a bit (he may teach them a grown up word or two, but we'll chalk that up to his profession and look the other way).
He is a leader, even if not everyone sees that.
He is a giver.
He is a friend.
He is a support to those in need.
He is a tough guy.
He is humble at the dumbest moments and cocky when he knows it will get him in hot water with his wife.
He is mindful of the needs of others and seeks to help when he can.
He sends my husband the dumbest texts ever (have I told you about the time those two quoted lyrics to Karate Kid's "Glory of Love"? No? Well, it happened).
He is an unsung hero who needs a few ditties hummed in his honor.
Help me do that today. If you are local, or even if you aren't, please share this story. Thank him if you see him. Take some time to be part of recognizing someone who is doing good. We need to start casting sunshine on people who do good to help make sure they continue to flourish. We need people like Officer Sickinger. He is important, just as everyone like him who chooses to honor their shield with service is.
Now, I only have a few shots of him that I can share. Sadly, most pictures I have seem to involve him giving Sam "Eagle" rides through fireworks or other equally silly stuff. Getting a picture of him in a serious moment is harder than filming Sasquatch (I'll let you draw your own conclusions there).
But, here are a few from the officer memorial program last year. The program he teased me about, but still showed up to and participated in.
Thank you, Officer Sickinger. Thank for being a shelter in the storm for members of our community. We are fortunate to have you protecting it.