Last week the city of Hilliard lost a father, son, neighbor, citizen. This morning I walked down Main Street to see blue ribbons festooning trees and signs, our black lampposts are wrapped in ribbon too, forming the familiar sign of an officer down; one thin blue line surrounded by black. All of it played against a pristine spring morning, a rarity, in central Ohio, reminding us that no moment is entirely free of suffering.
Yesterday my daughters asked why Officer Johnson’s police cruiser was adorned with bouquets and ribbons in our First Responder's Park, next to the 9/11 memorial where their great uncle’s name is engraved. I told my girls that a Police Officer died and we were thankful for his life because he protected us. Of course it is a fearful thing for a child to hear that sometimes no one can protect the protectors.
As a pastor I feel a deep sadness and gratitude for Officer Johnson. I am sad for his children and for the men and women who have served with him in our city. Sad for all of us who stand shoulder to shoulder to say 'no' to injustice. We stand shoulder to shoulder in the exhaustion of bearing the burdens of our citizens and neighbors, bearing the realities of that cycle of violence and brokenness at work in our dear community. I grieve with his fellow Officers who must carry on that task today with a limp. May you be comforted and strengthened even in your labors.
I am grateful to Officer Sean Johnson because a life invested in serving the public trust is at once inspiring and ordinary. It is inspiring because not often will someone choose to serve than to be served. It is ordinary because while not everyone can be a police officer, everyone can and should pursue their sort of dedication and bravery. I am grateful to Officer Johnson because his loss in the line of duty is a reminder to push against degradation and oppression, injustice and fear, neglect and hatred wherever we find it. May we commit ourselves, by the sheer tonnage of our grief and gratitude, to stand in the gap left by our friend and fellow citizen. May we serve with the same heroism and holding the same hope that while weeping may last for the night, joy comes in the morning.