Christmas Eve on the Beat

  • Downhome Magazine
  • Posted: Dec 14, 2010 2:34 PM
When I was a police officer in Toronto some years ago, I got a call on Christmas Eve to visit a resident complaining about illegally parked cars.

When I drove up, there were cars parked illegally, but they weren't impeding traffic. I spoke to the complainant, who turned out to be a curmudgeonly man who didn't want to give anyone a break on Christmas Eve. He even threatened to report me if I didn't ticket the vehicles.

So I knocked on a few doors, trying to find owners and ask them to move. I didn't find the owners, but at one house I asked for and got some sheets of yellow card, about the size of parking tickets.

The complainant watched from his front door as I wrote on each "ticket" and placed one under a wiper of each vehicle. He thought I was writing out a citation. What I really wrote was "Merry Christmas." As I drove away, the complainant was smiling - and so was I.

Here is a poem I wrote during my policing days. I published it a long time ago in Downhome and only recently dug it out from my files. I still enjoy reading it, as it reminds me to be grateful for my blessings. I hope it does the same for you.

Christmas Eve on the Beat

The afternoon's alive and hopping
Shoppers doing their last minute shopping
The police car finds the curb and stops
Lest someone rob the closing shops
And then the shoppers are all gone
The policeman prowls the streets alone
Christmas lights are everywhere
The sound of church bells haunts the air
He enjoys the moment for its worth
And for a while there's peace on Earth

Somewhere near a darkened alley
In a house, remodelled, trimmed with holly
Well-dressed couples talk and dine
In the alley, Harry drinks his wine
He's never lived, but he looks old
He wraps his rags against the cold
It's been a while since he last ate
He drinks the wine and curses fate
A half carafe, his total worth
The bells are chiming, peace on Earth

Red for stop. Green for go
It's cold, but still there is no snow
A streetcar grinds along the rail
Somewhere a siren starts to wail
The radio is hushed no more
The policeman answers back, "Ten-four"
Let the festivities begin
Peace on Earth, good will to men

A soon-to-be mother, left alone
To have the baby on her own
Wonders if Jesus, meek and mild
Cares about her unborn child
The policeman comes, God is not dead
The good nurse tucks her into bed
And some time before Christmas morn
Unto the world, a child is born

No one answers the policeman's knock
So he stands back and kicks the lock
He knew he wouldn't like this call
A cold chill greets him in the hall
He cannot shake the eerie feeling
He turns and looks up at the ceiling
He sees the rope, the eyes that stare
The lifeless form, the toppled chair
He cuts the rope with expedience
And saves the knot for evidence
But the answer to this life's lost hope
Won't be found in the knotted rope
One takes his life, one gives birth
Good will to men, peace on Earth

The stars are gone,
snow clouds descend
It seems the shift will never end
He goes from one who takes his life
To another who beats his wife
He returns a runaway to one place
Her father cries at her disgrace
An old lady on her own
Sits in her dingy room alone
In one house, son hates mother
Children hungry in another
In every call that he goes to
There is so little he can do
The threat of snow that fills the air
Does little for his deep despair
The radio sends him off again
Peace on Earth, good will to men

The shift is over, time to go
Already it's begun to snow
As he waits for the traffic light
His thoughts are somewhere in the night
Red for stop. Green for go
He drives home slowly through the snow
And pauses just outside the door
Of the haven that he's waited for
The snowflakes slowly slumber down
In hosts they ghostly dampen sound
The Christmas bells ring out again
Peace on Earth, good will to men.