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Helping others takes many forms
pastor corner

Rev. Dr. Devin Strong

Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church

My nephew Justin and I share January as our birthday-month. Our birthdays are just over a week--and a few decades— apart so it’s a natural time for me to be thinking about him. 

Justin and I are very different people. He is tall and in outstanding shape. I am short and overweight. He is good looking and extremely athletic. He was so good in high school and college that for a time, there was talk of him going pro in baseball. As for me, suffice it to say that my extracurriculars in high school were debate team and competitive speech competitions! Justin prefers to do his learning in the real world, and book-learning is one of my few gifts.

Justin and I are extremely different, except perhaps in a way that matters much more: we both try to use our gifts in ways that change people’s lives.

Justin is a young police officer in the Atlanta suburbs. When he first went to the police academy, I said that his size, strength, and athleticism will make him a great officer. All of those things certainly help, but what makes my nephew a skilled peace officer is his gentle nature and his talents at assisting citizens with their problems. Justin is a community resource and a caregiver who just happens to be built like a Mack truck!

Of course, there has been much talk in recent years about “bad cops” who behave unjustly or unfairly. For sure, the public needs to be concerned about folks who go off the reservation, but this is a risk for everyone who wields power, and in some situations, the police have a lot of it.

Today I want to lift up and celebrate all of the fantastic people who use whatever power they have to transform the lives of those around them for the better. Police officers like Justin deescalate domestic situations and assist victims of all sorts, and think about the coaches and teachers, doctors and nurses, auto mechanics and accountants who make a difference daily in quiet ways. Every one of us has power or influence in some arena. We can use that authority to maintain control in our little corners of the world or we can use it to go above and beyond and make someone else’s day better.

The truth is that I worry about Justin a lot because he never knows what he is going to encounter at a traffic stop or when he knocks on someone’s door, but I’m extremely proud of him because he chooses to use his day to help.

The turn of the new year is a good time to think about the blessing of vocation. Some of us are lucky enough to have caring for others as part of our job descriptions. Others need to be creative and care for others in the way they do their jobs, and still others find their vocation to help others outside of paid work. However you do it, wherever you do it, our real power in any situation is our ability to lift up and bless others.

Here’s to all the cops and fitness trainers, the restaurant workers and retail staff who have their priorities straight and think less about themselves than they do about others. Happy birthday-month, Justin! I want to grow up to be a lot like you.

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