This morning I was fortunate to attend a service at the Church of the Holy Spirit on Narbonne Avenue, in Clapham, SW4. I was doubly-fortunate in being able to say a few words to the congregation and I repeat them below for those who were unable to attend. I’d also like to thank Rev Ruth for inviting me and PC Edmondson and PC Fares for joining us.
“Looking out this morning I see a lot of familiar faces. Many of whom I also recall from when I popped in on Palm Sunday for 20 minutes. Between us, it was a rather tough, soul-searching time for me. A prayer was said which moved me and when we turned and hugged one another – to share the love of God – I have to confess that I had a tear in my eye. I left to return to my patrols and work with a renewed bounce and energy in my step and my mind and body refocussed on why I do what I do.
All too often police are seen by some simply as a uniform. We are all tarnished with the same brush. The truth – as I know you recognise – is that we are but humans too. We have names, beliefs, personalities, homes, children, fears, pets, families, hopes and dreams, just like everyone else. We also face abuse, obstruction and violence – with a lot of our time spent interacting with people who at best dislike us and at worst mean us serious harm. It can skew your view of the world.
In the hours and days that followed a recent incident I remember gaining enormous strength from the prayer on Palm Sunday – and from all those times I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time here, in the Church and also out and about in the community – shaking hands, hugging, laughing, talking and smiling. Whether at Christmas, Remembrance Sunday, Easter, Halloween or at that most wonderful of annual events: the Abbeville Fete. So much of my work has seen me deal with the most challenging side of human nature – it is a blessing indeed to be able to spend even a few happy hours – like the time right now – with you in uninterrupted good humour and in a safe environment.
To suffer broken ribs while arresting a drug dealer, to be rolling around on the floor with a teenage gang member desperately trying to pull out his knife, to be shot at, to be spat at, to be called a racist, to be verbally abused, to suffer cuts and bruises – they all, somehow, pale into insignificance relative to the everyday acts of kindness I have seen; and such struggle is given worth knowing that it has been in honouring my oath and to help keep this community safe.
To dwell on just one example of everyday kindness:
I’ve spent a lot of time in and around the Notre Dame Estate, just up the road to combat knife crime and drug dealing, often affecting some of the most vulnerable and troubled young people. Last year, one night, I stood on the top floor walkway, looking out over the estate. The skyline of London twinkling in the distance. A lady and her daughter came out from their flat and offered me a cup of tea and a biscuit. To be offered such generosity in an environment where I am more usually subject to hateful abuse, was honestly overwhelming. To them, it was a simple act of kindness. To me, it meant the world.
I have seen such acts of kindness elsewhere in our community too. Perhaps the best manifestation of our kindness as individuals and a community is the support for and excellent work of the Ace of Clubs on St Alphonsus Road – supporting and transforming the lives of the homeless and vulnerable in Clapham. It’s delivery, everyday, of kindness, is – quite honestly – a life-saver.
Like the lady and her daughter that made me a cup of tea and gave me some jammy dodgers, know that at those most challenging of times – you have all been there for me. You may not know it, you may not think it – but you have. It has meant a very great deal to me and I am grateful for that – and I only hope that you feel that I – and hopefully my colleagues, past and present – have been there for you too.
So, in giving thanks to me – can I immediately pay it back and thank you. If there is, perhaps any wisdom I can offer from my experience of serving London for the last three years, it’s probably that even the smallest acts can be the most profound; and that practicing even the smallest acts of human kindness – as we do – each and every day, can only serve to make our world a better place.”