Even though my typical sleeping patterns are akin to one of those downed motionless trees in the middle of a dense forest, or “like a log,” early last Sunday morning I was stirred by the sound of a distant and faint shrill and squinted to view the alarm clock. It read 3:30 a.m. so I was confident morning hadn’t broken prematurely.
I was in no condition to navigate my hearing aids on the night stand but was coherent enough to realize the inadvertent “wake-up call” came from one of the warning sirens going off in town. Barely pausing for a nanosecond to assess any immediate emergency, and not hearing any movement from our “watchdog” sleeping on the couch, I rolled over and went in pursuit of some R.E.M. Not the rock band, mind you, but the “rapid eye movement” sought during the first 90 minutes of sleep.
A few hours later, during Sunday worship, a parishioner alerted me that her husband and other local volunteer firefighters had been called out to provide mutual aid to those battling a house fire in Columbus Grove.
Often, if I hear a siren or see flashing lights, I take a moment to pause and even pray for the unbeknownst to me circumstances. Probably for the bulk of us, when it comes to first responders, those dedicated and tireless community servants many of whom volunteer without pay, we take only periodic notice.
When national tragedies garnering newspaper headlines surface, particularly when there is the loss of human life, most of us are quick to express appreciation for any first responders. I am quite convinced, though I hope it never happens, first responders would eagerly stand in “harm’s way” to serve and protect me or my family.
In the meantime, those faithful servants have only had to drive and attend to me in an ambulance twice as I was whisked to the hospital, once for what seemed heart related and the other for a neurological issue. After having flown and driven without incident thousands of miles to vacation in California, they were quick to our aid when we struck a deer on State Route 65 late at night and less than a mile from home.
Our local police, when called upon, were there to intervene in the awkward situation of the threat of someone stalking one of our children. Oddly enough, police showed up one evening to “stop me for speeding” and presented me with a $30 gift card to a hardware store instead of a ticket.
When an obnoxious guy in a pickup truck was playing road rage games on I-75, a brief call to 911 quickly engaged a state trooper on the scene and traffic was back to normal. While running late to see “Dances With Wolves” at the Shannon Theater in Bluffton and barreling and bounding down County Road M, it was a sheriff’s deputy heading in our direction who simply waved to us to slow it down.
Though I have a pass to get into all O-G home games, the officer guarding the entrance gate graciously allows me to ride my bike inside and park it along the track fence at home football games. These folks know how to enter potentially volatile situations and can direct inconsolable me to “take a chill pill” while seating in the front row of boys basketball game, as opposed to escorting me out of the BGSU arena. Surprisingly, none of my kids were even playing that night.
They had every right to ticket me for speeding as I was going 12 miles over the limit on a Sunday morning heading to lead worship in Findlay even though the trooper relented in the end declaring, “My mother would kill me if I ever gave a ticket to a priest.”
Bloodied and bruised, I couldn’t have been more grateful for them picking me up off the pavement and taking me to ambulatory care after a bike crash while riding in a mini-peleton during the annual Tour de Putnam bike ride.
I and everyone in our congregation are reassured by how they regularly stop by our church building, and in the event someone left the doors unlocked, will inform me of the same.
Who else do you know is willing to ride in and provide crowd control for the 267 parades that annually process through Putnam County towns? All our children took advantage of how they donate time, talents and service, year in and year out, and go the extra mile to build the best community relations by walking around and greeting kids in schools and giving fire truck rides during Fire Prevention Week.
We couldn’t have been more grateful when they found our lost children, one, at the age of 5 who wandered off to the Ottawa Memorial Pool without our knowledge. He loved the ride home in the cruiser and the fist full of concession stand candy, too. The other rescue was in Columbus after a game when one of our twins, Eric, turned up missing. Looking for a description, we showed his brother Tim to the officer and minutes later Eric was located in the St. John’s Arena parking lot.
One day is truly insufficient to appropriately recognize and appreciate the countless days these men and women diligently show up when called upon. In any case, may we all laud their efforts on the third annual National First Responders Day, Monday, Oct. 28.
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org