An Officer and a Friend

There I was in a steady rain in the stands at Cardinal Gibbons High School waiting for the track meet to begin or be called off when a sudden heavy downpour forced the guy beside me to share my over-sized umbrella.

I struck up a conversation.  “Who’s your child out there, girl or a boy?” I asked.

I plead guilty to talking to strangers — something  I have consistently taught my children never to do. My excuse is that I spent too many years as a journalist. We are paid to talk to strangers with ease; it’s a hard habit to break.

“Neither,” he said. “I’m a probation officer. I’m just here to support one of mine. My own children are grown, out of college.”

My guess is he wasn’t really an officer at that moment. More like a friend. Friends love at all times; they support you when you need it. Even in a cold rain.

I was sure that anyone standing outdoors in pouring rain — without an umbrella — at what turned out to be a 4-hour track meet had to be a parent. Faulty assumption.

We think we know something about the people we stand next to at sporting events, ride office elevators with every morning or sit beside in a church pew every week. Chances are we know nothing.

Our conversation ended when the guy’s Blackberry rang. “One thing about this job is there is no ‘off,'” he said as he answered. “Crime is always going on somewhere.”

Thankfully, love and friendship are always going on, too. Rain or shine, on or off the clock.

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