Show me going

“All units be advised: active shooter incident at 572 Main Street East. Units in the area please respond.”

A moment’s delay while the radio crackled. Then—

“Carter, badge 4792, show me going.”

“Hernandez, badge 2231, show me going.”

“Jackson, badge 7133, show me going.”

“Ching, badge 6990, show me going.”

One of my favourite cop shows recently featured gunmen holding down a building with hostages inside. This is the sort of situation that normal, sensible people flee. Police officers, however? They run toward the danger.

And, so that they can be accounted for especially if things go badly, they tell their dispatcher for the record, “Show me going.”

I’ve had the privilege of teaching many outstanding people over my career. One is Shim Jung Hee (which I’m pretty sure is Korean for “Diana Prince”), a young woman who graduated from the University of Maryland and then, with a master’s degree, from Regent College.

Sara (her American name) is not only well educated, but multi-talented. How talented? Good enough on viola to have played in Carnegie Hall. Good enough in track and field to have qualified for the American Olympic trials.

What does someone like this do with the promise of the whole world in front of her?

She trains to become a Baltimore County Fire Department EMT—that’s her in the big photo above, with all of her big(ger) colleagues.

Later, she transits to her new job, shown in the smaller photo: working for the Department of Defense as a flight paramedic. (Imagine what she sees every time that chopper sets down. Then try to stop thinking about it.)

Sara is now married, with a new last name. But she is still following a sustained vocation in the same direction: toward trouble, toward people in dire need.

“Sara Reynolds: Show me going.”

A toast, then, to those who got up today and headed straight back into the difficult places.

The nurse who works in an overburdened community health clinic, serving the mentally ill whom the government has “mainstreamed” onto the streets to endure homelessness and addiction. She puts on her scrubs, grabs her coat and hat, and sets out for another midnight shift of angelic mercy.

Show her going.

The middle-aged clerk, underemployed in an unwelcoming economy, stacking shelves in the supermarket for customers who ignore him, when he used to manage a staff of twenty who liked and respected him. He pulls on his uniform jacket, dons his store cap, and keeps smiling all day as self-absorbed people sigh and drive their carts around him, just another obstacle.

Show him going.

The pastor who really wanted to get her sermon written by Thursday night now staring at blank paper on Saturday evening after yet another week of emergency calls. So many people in distress! Depression, anxiety, troubled marriages, confused youth, lonely elderly, angry deacons, and a dozen in hospital. She pulls off the shelf her Bible and her notebook of hurried daily devotions and prays for something worthwhile to say to the people she loves.

Show her going.

The father who puts his career aspirations on indefinite hold to stay home to care for his infant child—who gives him just 90 minutes of naptime a day to do something else. He climbs out of bed at 2 a.m., trying to let his hardworking wife keep sleeping, and tiptoes groggily into the baby’s room to settle him down.

Show him going.

The Christian legislator stuck with a preening party leader who cares far more for his image than for his constituency, a secularist who does all he can to marginalize religious institutions. In the privacy of caucus she fights like crazy for the causes she believes in, only to have to stand deferentially mute as the leader brays before the microphones and undercuts her work. But she clutches her hope, plays the long game, and heads back to her office to do the best she can.

Show her going.

The volunteer who checks the weather before bed, rises early, and heads over to the church, or the clubhouse, or the soup kitchen, in the freezing darkness of morning to shovel the new snow and salt the treacherous walks. When everyone else arrives an hour later, teeth chattering and stamping their boots in the foyer, no one notices—how could one know?—that he has saved one person from a broken hip, another from a fractured wrist, and still another from a concussion. Someone might say a quick word of thanks, and he just smiles and heads downstairs to make sure the old furnace is still working fine.

Show him going.

Here’s to vocational faithfulness, to doing your job, to heading back, once more, straight into the need of the world. Blessed are the shalom-makers, for they will be called children of God.

Show them going.

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John G. Stackhouse, Jr., PhD, serves as the Samuel J. Mikolaski Professor of Religious Studies at Crandall University in Moncton, New Brunswick. A graduate of Queen’s University, Wheaton Graduate School, and the University of Chicago, he was formerly Professor of Religion at the University of Manitoba and held the Sangwoo Youtong Chee Chair of Theology and Culture at Regent College, Vancouver. He has given interviews to ABC, NBC, CBC, CTV, and Global TV as well as to CBC Radio from coast to coast. His work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Times Literary Supplement, The Globe and Mail, the National Post, The Atlantic, Time, and Maclean’s. Author of over 800 articles, book chapters, and reviews, his tenth book has been released this year: “Why You’re Here: Ethics for the Real World” (Oxford University Press).