I was driving home tonight and was stopped at a light on Madison and Minor. This intersection is a hub of activity. Two hospitals, multiple apartment buildings, senior living facilities and social services offices all meet at this intersection. It was past dusk, temperatures were dropping and people were rushing to get home, get to an appointment, a bar, somewhere. And I see flashing lights. A Seattle police SUV has stopped at the edge of the intersection.
I crane my neck to peak past the car in front of me and see two officers stopping traffic. No accident, no incident. An elderly gentleman, slowly pushing a worn walker, was crossing the street. His bent body and the slow turning wheels of his walker couldn’t move fast enough for the walk signal that was flashing “Don’t Walk” at him before he was fully off the curb.
These two officers brought anxious, ready-to-get-to-the-next-place Seattle traffic to a halt. But no one was honking. One officer held the hand of the older gentleman as he feebly stepped up onto the curb. Then they rushed back to their car, flipped off their lights, and just like that, everything was moving again.
I glanced down the sidewalk, lit by the neon signs of the Pho shop and pharmacies lined down the street. Slowly, carefully, the old man kept pace to his own time, moving on to his destination. In my rear view mirror the SUV with the flashing lights was long gone.
Two minutes. One missed rotation of a light. And I had the opportunity to witness what true covenant looks like. When you pledge to protect and serve, police, clergy, social worker or other, you are making a covenant with your community, with the people you pass on the street, to those whose stories you may never know, that you will stop when it is inconvient, and help. You are pledging to do the little things, without recognition or thanks. You are committing to restoring humanity, dignity, and a sense of community.
These officers didn’t hesitated to jump out of their car and make sure this man was able to safely get to his destination. Sure, we don’t always get it right. Absolutely, there are those in uniform, clerical collar, social worker badge and more who mess up, who do it wrong and with ill intent. But I am grateful for the reminder tonight that there are those who hold covenant with community sacred.
I have no picture, no names. Just a recounting of what covenant with community looks like when it is done well.