When I was ten years old, my neighbor, Officer Goode, was a California Highway Patrolman. Since he was the Police, my innocent young mind had a great fear of doing anything wrong, lest he fine out, and put me in jail.
One day our family moved away. Officer Goode and his family came by to say their good-byes and I recall it being a very sad moment for everyone. The one thing I will never forget was how Officer Goode said good-bye to me. First, he made me feel important, and then he talked to me for a minute and shook my hand. What happened next made an impact on me that will last for the rest of my life. He put his hand on my shoulder and said, “You’re a fine young man.” I remember feeling so good, so proud and honored that a Police Officer would think that of me that I nearly burst into tears. I have never forgotten that day and count that as the one of the greatest reasons I wanted to grow up and become a Police Officer. Thank you, Officer Goode.
I was at the Police station, “Officer, may I ask your help?” said a man who had walked into the front lobby of Police station. “Why yes, how can I help you sir?” Wringing his hands, the man continued, “I have a fifteen year old son who is starting down the wrong path, his school work is falling behind and he is hanging around with the wrong crowd… I cannot get through to him, can you please help?” I could truly see the desperation on the man’s face. “Sure, I’ll have a little chat with him,” I said. The man left the station and a few minutes later came back in with his wife and their son. I could sense already and attitude in the young man as he walked in. His mother took the hand of her husband and the young man stood in front of me. I asked him, “Young man, what are you doing here?” He looked puzzled and said, “Well, I don’t know why, my parents brought me here.” Then as authoritative as I could look and sound, I leaned towards him and said, “This is a Police station… bad people are brought here and you don’t look much like a bad person… you look a lot like a darn good kid to me, so what are you doing here?” He looked down, smiled, and then glanced at his Mom and Dad. I believe it was what he needed to hear and most likely, was yearning to hear, that he was a good kid, not a bad one.
We continued to talk for quite some time and he and I covered many topics. When the time came to leave, I shook his hand and then did the same thing to him that Officer Goode did to me so many years ago; I put my hand on his shoulder and said, “You’re a fine young man.” That fifteen-year-old kid left the station standing tall and I did not sense an attitude any more. His parents thanked me and we said good-bye.
Six years later, I was in the station and a young man in a Security uniform approached me along with a man and woman standing next to him, “Officer Hallock, do you remember us; you spoke to my son about six years ago?” I could not believe my eyes. “We wanted to come by and let you know how thankful we were for that day,” the father said proudly. “Tell him, tell him,” the mother said anxiously. The young man stepped up and said, “I’ve been attending college classes and I have been a security guard for over a year and now that I am twenty-one I’m going to go into the Police academy.” His smile and look on his face was priceless. This may be a thankless job but moments like this are the rare treats that make it all worth it. “I couldn’t be more proud,” I said shaking his hand.
It is amazing how such a simple thing like putting a hand on the shoulder of a young person could shape their lives. I will always be grateful for my neighbor, Officer Goode.