On a rural Georgia road, covered by nightfall, comes a powerful beam of light that cuts through the darkness of hatred and misunderstanding.
A Heard County Sheriff’s Deputy was doing his job when he observed a young man ignoring a stop sign. In law enforcement, there’s no such thing as routine. An innocuous traffic violation performed by the wrong person, at the wrong time, in the wrong place, can cause a situation to go south in a real hurry. The deputy in this situation didn’t know if the driver he stopped was an innocent teenager who wasn’t paying attention, or an escaped convict with a taste for blood. The deputy stepped forward with his hand on his service pistol, completely unaware that he was moving toward an encounter that just might change his life forever.
Consider, for a moment, the current state of affairs for anyone wearing a badge. Officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge are dead because of the anger over shootings that had nothing to do with them. Some people, not all, but some have indicted an entire profession because of the actions of a few. It’s not fair. It’s like destroying an entire orchard because of the worms found in two apples. It is but another example of hatred run amok. Nothing good comes of hate.
That Heard County Deputy had no way of knowing if he would be the next target.
Then it happened. Another car arrived. Two people got out and walked toward the deputy. He tensed.
“I immediately start running situations through my head, and praying for the best,” the deputy wrote on his Facebook page. “I’m nervous, and praying to God that nothing is going to happen.”
One of the people approaching the deputy identified himself of the father the young man the deputy had stopped. Papa Bear had arrived to protect Baby Bear, always a potentially volatile situation.
“That’s my boy,” he told the deputy. “I just want to make sure everything’s okay.”
The deputy calmly informed the man that his son was going to get a warning for running the stop sign. What happened next came straight from all that is pure and good.
“God bless you,” the man told the deputy. “I just appreciate everything you do.”
The man went on to tell the deputy that he was on his way to the hospital to visit his father, who had just suffered a stroke. Then he reached for the deputy’s hand.
“Do you have a minute? I’d just like to say a word of prayer.”
Right there, on the side of that dark Heard County road, a man whose father had just suffered a stroke stopped to offer compassion to a complete stranger, to a deputy who’d just interrupted his trip to visit a loved one.
“Lord, keep this man and his fellow officers safe as they’re out here trying to keep us safe,” the man prayed, all of it captured on the deputy’s dashboard camera.
The prayer ended with a hug.
“As he prayed for me and my brothers in blue, my eyes filled with tears,” the deputy wrote. “This man, with all he had going on, stopped to pray for me. As I walked away, I was in total shock.”
Think of that. The deputy was in shock that someone would pause to express appreciation for his commitment to protecting others.
Every day, hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers leave their homes for a day’s work, unsure if they’ll make it back to their families. They’re sassed, disrespected, and cussed for doing their job. They’re not perfect. None of us are. There are a few who have allowed the power of the badge go to their heads, resulting in horrible decisions. But the overwhelming majority of officers I’ve known are good people with a genuine heart for protecting the rest of us. Still, it’s a job where they’re more likely to hear a threat than a thank you.
This doesn’t have to be about law enforcement officers. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about prayer. It’s about bringing peace to a troubled world. It’s about lifting your neighbor when they’re down.
Imagine you work for a business that’s struggling. You’ve said goodbye to co-workers forced out by layoffs. You have no idea if the next pink slip is bound for your in-box. You’re on a sales call, stressed over the added pressure, when a customer, a total stranger, offers you comfort and understanding. It might not erase all of your woes, but the pressure might not seem as overwhelming. Your outlook might not appear quite so dark.
Despite all of the marches, the protests, the pain, and the doubt, that officer in Heard County now knows at least one man cares.
On a rural road covered by darkness, there is light.