Amid the Coronavirus outbreak, there have been terrible news items in the mainstream media of people getting into physical confrontations outside big-box stores as they line up to buy toilet paper.
In some places, people have shown their worst possible traits, being downright mean to others around them without fully understanding the circumstances of those they offend or affront.
People are scared—as well they should be with more than 49,000 confirmed deaths in the United States and more than 187,000 deaths worldwide.
Meanwhile, police officers across the country continue to commit heartwarming acts of kindness well above and beyond their call of duty.
For example, earlier this week we reported about Officer Jim Carbone of the North Olmsted (OH) Police Department, who recently partnered with "Meals on Wheels" to deliver lunch and dinner five days a week to at-risk populations during the health crisis. He makes the rounds to different assisted-living facilities and personal dwellings delivering food and much-needed companionship.
Many of the recipients of his kindness have pre-existing conditions that might increase their risk of contracting the disease and some have difficulty getting adequate food during the quarantine.
Also this week, we reported on an officer with the Burlingame (CA) Police Department who recently recovered from COVID-19 after contracting the disease in early March. He is now trying to help others who may contract the novel coronavirus. Officer Steve Vega is back on his feet after many days of pain and fear, and is now donating his antibodies in hopes of treating other COVID-19 patients.
Also this week, we reported on a school resource officer in Maryland who is trying to help parents as they learn how to homeschool their children during the coronavirus shutdown.
Officer Jason Neidig—who has been the SRO at Aberdeen Middle School for four years—said, "When I became a School Resource Officer I wanted to take it a step further—interact more with the students more than just being in the school."
With schools closed due to COVID-19, he's begun using social media to continue to connect with students online. He posts daily videos on Instagram and YouTube and has a weekly feature called "TikTok Tuesday."
Late last month we reported on officers in New Jersey paying for hundreds of pizzas to help local residents and businesses impacted by the coronavirus shutdown.
Also in late March we reported on officers in Alabama who are helping long-haul truckers get meals from fast-food restaurants because the dining rooms are closed and the big rigs don't fit in the drive-through.
There are countless other acts of kindness being performed by officers across the country who are going well above and beyond their call of duty to assist people who are in need.
The "Little Things" Are Not so Little
During this trying and troubling time, with people becoming critically ill and sometimes dying from this COVID-19 outbreak, even the smallest acts of kindness become really quite large, especially for the individual recipients of kindness.
The smallest act of kindness can have an indelible impact on a person who just needs a helping hand—and countless millions of Americans cloistered in their homes, fearful of contracting the COVID-19 virus, could use a helping hand right now.
There are myriad ways in which officers are helping citizens totally unrelated to the coronavirus outbreak.
There was the officer with the Quincy (MA) Police Department who was captured on social media video helping a man get home after his electric scooter lost power.
There was the officer with the Boise Police Department who purchased a bicycle for a man who had been in a vehicle collision and was concerned that without transportation, he might lose his job.
Here are some additional thoughts on how police officer kindness can help people through these trying times.
Things You Can Do
First and foremost, on every call for service you can share the power of unconditional respect, a concept put forth by police trainers Jack Colwell and Chip Huth in their book, "Unleashing the Power of Unconditional Respect: Transforming Law Enforcement and Police Training." If you haven't read it, consider picking it up. It can change your perspective on dealing with people in a positive way—even those people whose actions you probably find utterly reprehensible.
Another thing I've picked up over the years comes from my friend, San Francisco Police Chief (retired) Greg Suhr, who instructed his officers to "spend the extra minute" with victims of crimes whenever possible. You've got another call to go to—this is absolutely certain—but spending just one more moment with a person who is probably having the worst day of their lives can leave a lasting impression.
One of the best things you can do is find ways to have positive interactions with kids. Officers and kids often have a special bond. Police officers have a unique opportunity to positively influence the lives of countless children across America—many of whom do not really have very many positive role models in their lives—to become productive members of society when they grow up. There are myriad examples of officers stopping their patrol vehicle to "shoot hoops" or toss a football with kids who are playing by themselves in their driveway or front yard.
Finally and perhaps most important, is that you can be good colleagues to your fellow officers. During these difficult times it's more important than ever to provide friendship and support to the officers working with you. That kindness becomes exponential in its effect, giving officers the knowledge that they are cared for by their shift-mates.
That then cascades into those officers—feeling further uplifted—to find a small way to provide a citizen with that same feeling at some point during their tour.
No matter how bad things get with the COVID-19 outbreak, police officers will be there to help. You, my friends, do heroic things, placing yourself in harm's way to protect the citizens you serve.
You also do things that may seem to you in the moment to be mundane, but have a tremendous impact on people in need.
Hopefully your "small" acts of kindness will be remembered the next time something goes sideways, gets loud, and causes a backlash among politicians, the press, and the public.
When I was a kid, my dad drilled into my brain (and my behavior) a saying that is appropriate here…
"Be well, do good, and go get 'em."