But then something happened, Ray, something amazing. Something...That white cop sitting next to me? He took a long look at my mother when she came in, just like, absorbed her and then without even turning to me, he just put his hand on my back, up between my neck and shoulder...And all he did was squeeze. Give me a little squeeze of sympathy, then rubbed that same spot with his palm for maybe two, three seconds and that was it.But I swear to you, nobody, in my entire life up to that point had ever touched me with that kind of tenderness. I had never experienced a sympathetic hand like that and Ray, it felt like lightning.I mean, the guy did it without thinking, I am sure. And when dinnertime rolled around he had probably forgotten all about it. Forgot about me, too, for that matter... But I didn't forget.I didn't walk around thinking about it nonstop either, but something like seven years later when I was at community college? The recruiting officer for the PD came on campus for Career Day and I didn't really like college all that much to begin with, so I took the test for the academy, scored high, quit school and never looked back.And usually when I tell people why I became a cop I say because it would keep Butchie and Antoine out of my life and there's some truth in that.But I think the real reason was because that recruiting officer on campus that day reminded me, in some way, you know, conscious or not, of that housing cop who had sat on the bench with me when I was thirteen.In fact, I don't think it, I know it. As sure as I am standing here, I know I became a cop because of him. For him. To be like him. God as my witness, Ray. The man put his hand on my back for three seconds and it rerouted my life for the next twenty-nine years.It's the enormity of small things... Adults, grown-ups, us, we have so much power... And sometimes when we find ourselves coming into contact with certain kinds of kids? Needy kids? We have to be ever so careful...
Richard Price