The bus rolled to a stop at the intersection. It was the first time I had ever taken it, given that our house was within eyesight of the elementary school. I was riding on it to our grandparents home along the highway, though I cannot recall what prompted that decision. We usually went there after school if nobody was going to be at home for quite a while.
I had not been paying much attention to what was happening around us, because the bus did not move when the light turned green. There was a police car with its lights on behind us, which caused a bit of a commotion for the relatively few kids that were on that route. The bus had pulled over slightly into the gas station. A tall, uniformed officer walked up alongside the bus and stepped on board.
It was my grandfather.
It is likely that I had got on the wrong bus. I do not remember much else other than it being the one time I had ever ridden in any seat, much less the front, of a patrol car. He dropped me off at his house with my grandmother and went back to work.
Small towns have a way of not exactly being great for folks if you were not one of a handful of families, and he did not stick with the department for too many years after that. For a town of fewer than 2,000 people at the time, your most likely offense was speeding or setting off fireworks. If you drove through town, as I did many times while in college, and saw two police cars at the city limits, you knew those were likely the only two on duty for that shift. He would still sit and have coffee with former coworkers at the convenience store that I was later a stock clerk, and dropped in at the police chief's used electronics store downtown. He seemed to always know everybody.
Public servants -- fire, police and EMTs -- are the lifeblood of our communities. They ensure public health and safety so that it is not left to each of us to fend for it on our own. Those that do the job well take on that level responsibility eagerly, and understand that each and every person they encounter in a day's work is also a member of the same community. They listen more than they speak. The show common respect towards everyone, even those they suspect of breaking the law.
Anyone that views themselves as apart from or above the community that they serve should change their perspective or find other another profession -- it is only a matter of time before they will do more harm than good. It is at the point where an officer no longer sees the person he or she is placing under arrest as worthy of fair treatment that the gulf of distrust widens.
In a small town, you are rather likely to run into the officer that pulled you over for speeding yesterday in the cereal aisle at the grocery store today, or see them at church on Sunday. We should all treat each other with the same mutual respect where such an encounter would be neither awkward nor unwelcome. That is the kind of community we should strive to build.
And try to let up a little on the gas when driving through Greenfield.