The article linked here from the Washington Post speaks to me the most powerfully in the wake of tragic stories last week detailing horrible incidents between police and citizens.
I admire and identify with the way in which Lee Sjolander approaches his work. It's not a job to him, it's a calling. I don't know if there is much that's different between Lee the chief and Lee the husband, dad, citizen, or church goer. He understands the multiple layers of responsibility that go with the power inherent in his job. There is both pride and humility in the approach that he takes.
I hope it's what people see in me as a teacher. Like Lee, I try my best to reject an "us vs. them" mentality as I work with students, children really. I reject absolutes, knowing that what should work may work a majority of the time, but will not work with every child in every situation. I strive to master the subtle contours of the relationship between a teacher and his class. It's a job in which firmness must coexist with courtesy and dignity and in which a lot of correction can happen through humor or generosity.
And I was gratified (and proud) to read at the end of the article that Lee is a Lutheran. I figured it might be the case, given that he was a chief of a small town in Minnesota, and that inkling intensified as I read further about his philosophy toward his work. A friend of mine who is a pastor speaks of our vocational calling in life, and I feel like I was called to teaching rather than it being a job that I chose. And that calling powerfully shapes my work ethic, my relations with students, and my friendships with colleagues. The article helped reassure me that I'm not making that up.
I hope his message reassures others, either to rediscover the purpose to their work (or the work of a loved one) or to be reassured that the police who find themselves at the epicenter of a fissured moment in America are engaged in work meant to uplift and protect.