Driving around town the other day trying to get some things done I passed a police officer. For some reason I took special notice of the words that were placed on each door as well as the rear bumper. They read, “To protect and serve.” I thought about all the things that the men and women of the police force do to make sure their slogan “to protect and serve” is kept.
These thoughts turned from the officers to my parents. As they did, I marveled at the sacrifices they have made to get me to where I am today.
I remembered being 15 lying in a hospital just hours from learning that my medical diagnosis was quadriplegia, and as far as the doctors were concerned I would never walk again. On that day, like so many after it, I looked into my parents eyes and knew that if there was anything they could do to better “protect and serve” me I need only ask for it. I knew in a way most 15-year-old boys never get to know that my mom and dad would do anything in their power to keep me safe and help me to grow.
Later, as I worked in a wheelchair to find my way in a world of stairs, I also learned that often in order to truly serve, they had to let me fall. That the greatest protection they could offer was the preparation that came from no protection at all. That the finest service they could give was teaching me to serve myself.
In addition, I watched as they worked hard not only “to protect and serve” my siblings and I, but our “neighbors” as well. Just like the officers who carry that credo with them, my parents taught us that we too have a responsibility “to protect and serve” those around us. From a young age I was instructed that if I saw suffering I had a duty to help to curb it. I learned that if any of us are ever to be truly protected or served we must police each other.
Thinking of my parents, my thoughts turned to this little boy waiting to come to my home. Like the police officer, all I want to do is “to protect and serve” him,
As I think about the life he has a waiting him, the adventures that will be his, and the world that he is being born into my first nature is to protect him and keep him safe. It seems as natural and instinct as “fight or flight.” He’s not even here, and I already consider often the things that I can do to keep him out of harm’s way.
My desire to serve him is just as strong. From that day when he was all of five weeks old and I heard his heartbeat, I knew that I would do anything I could to help him. I think of him often in my dreams and as I do I try to imagine ways that I might help him reach his ultimate potential. We have not even met and yet all that I have is his. If there is anything I own in this world that might help him achieve more, do more, or become more I will gladly give it to him. My soul aches to serve him.
I hope that I am strong enough to follow the examples of my parents. I hope that I serve him well enough that I teach him I cannot protect him from everything even if I wanted to. I hope that he grows up knowing that he has a responsibility to those around him. I hope he grows up safe and secure. Safe in the knowledge that his dad loves him and secure enough in who he is that he can rise each time he falls.
What I do know is this, he is mine and I am his. I know I will do my very best “to protect and serve” him in a way that prepares him for the struggles that lie ahead of him, and will work to help him know that understanding love means loving his neighbor as himself.
Coleman Jason Hall when he was just five cells old. (He's the cute one)