In the Wake of Another Fathers’ Day…


It has been a while since my last contribution to Blue Linesmea culpa! I have been seriously preoccupied with moving from my home of 25+ years to a new residence in a new town and it has taken much more effort than I expected to get settled. In fact, I really can’t say that “settled” defines the current state of things…not yet.

Admittedly, my relocation has not been the only reason for my tardiness. I have sat down a couple times over the last month to pen something meaningful, but have come up empty. As I have said before, I’m not one to cough up something just for the sake of making noise…in print or otherwise. Despite the ongoing flow of news, incidents, provocations, and public displays of lunacy, I just couldn’t see much to make mention of that hadn’t already been victimized by a stampede of commentary. And, frankly, much of what has been going on has left me…and perhaps many of you…rather speechless. Dumbfounded, really.

Friends and family have encouraged me to write something, noting that much of what I have predicted over the last couple of years has come to fruition…unfortunately. Just the other day, I saw a posting of an article in the New York Times that described the loosening of selection standards for police officers, because they simply can’t find enough qualified candidates that meet the time-honored prerequisites. I noted it reflected the “perfect storm of consequences” I had written about some time ago.You can read it for yourselves, if you like: Heroin Use? Juvenile Record? For Recruits, Police Forgive Past Sins.
As concerning as the situation is, the real problem is what will happen when under-qualified people hired to fill vacancies in patrol cars are the ones that are seriously considered for promotion to command positions in the future. Being “under-qualified” is not something that rectifies itself with time on the job. The characteristics of people who were dismissed from the hiring process in the past are not the things that can be erased with training, otherwise they wouldn’t have been cause for dismissal in the first place. We have all seen what happens to the quality of service performed by those who slipped through the vetting process in the past and then devastated the reputation of a law enforcement agency, let alone the peace and stability of the community victimized by incompetence or just plain poor judgment. I’m not talking about a mere mistake, even if the consequences are substantial. I’m referring to the systemic problems involved in the deterioration of professionalism in an organization caused by the very inferior fabric of the people in authority. What are we doing about it? Good God, people!

This Fathers Day, I had the good fortune to spend the day with my family. Like millions of other men, I enjoyed the company of my children and grandchildren on a warm day with some outdoor fun and good eats—thanks in large part to their extraordinary efforts to make it all special. The warmth of their love and attention was intoxicating. But I was sobered by the occasional thought that invaded the revelry of what was happening in the world around them and how it would impact their futures. I couldn’t help the nagging notion that maybe I missed something that I should have done to make a positive difference in their lives. Whether it’s from my Catholic background that encouraged continual self-examination or the leftover vibes of 30+ years in a job that forced me to habitually guard against ubiquitous criticism, I am forever responding to self-doubt. I then recalled a poem that I found among my grandmother’s very personal possessions after she passed on.

The Indispensable Man was written by Saxon White Kessinger. It is under copyright and, without the author’s permission to reproduce it here, I will only encourage you to read the entire piece easily found online. But, in essence, it chides the reader for any overemphasis on his or her own importance. Kessinger says when we are feeling full of ourselves, we should put our hand into a bucket of water. We can stir and splash as much as we want, but when we stop and pull our hand back, the water remaining will look much as it did before we dove in. The experience is meant to be a metaphor describing the imprint most of us leave on the world at large. In truth, it reinforces the belief I have maintained that very few of us leave a significant legacy beyond the influence we have with our intimate family and friends. The poem ends with the humbling line, “There’s no indispensable man.”

So with that I shook off the temptation to get lost in concerns that were possibly irrational or unreasonable…certainly those beyond my singular control…and returned to enjoying time in the present. Indeed, it was valuable time with loved ones that can be so easily lost if not embraced when we have the chance. I shored that up by remembering the Lord’s admonishment:

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34)

It’s not an endorsement of reckless abandonment, for that daily trouble can ferment into chaos.  But we have to maintain reasonable expectations of what we can do alone. That should prompt us to seek his help and support insightful, cooperative, proactive efforts with others.

Michael Kelly
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