Updated: Jul 9, 2021
Since I was very young, I was taught each of us had a guardian angel. They were there to protect and guide us. During my life, I know there were times mine came to my aide. I never let a night go by without thanking God for my guardian angel. I also asked that one day I be allowed to meet him to say thank you. That day came for me. I was a young police officer assigned to the 1st shift patrol division (11pm to 7am) of a large suburban police department just north of Detroit, Michigan. During our shift, my partner and I decided to stop for a coffee at one of our favorite restaurants.
I enjoyed talking with people, which bothered some of my partners. It did not matter to me who it was, a waitress, cook, busboy, or a customer. Well, one of those people was a busboy at a restaurant in my area. James was physically disabled. However, the restaurant owner felt a person's disability should not prevent them from working. James bused the tables and helped wash the dishes. He and I hit it off from the beginning. The waitresses would tell me how excited he would get when he saw me pull into the parking lot. He loved police officers. Sadly, some of them would avoid conversations with him. When I was there James would come up with his tray and towel in hand and start talking. He would always ask if it was a dangerous night or if I was scared? Even though I may have had a night where the last thing I wanted was to talk with someone, his smile and his simple words seem to make my troubles fade, and for those few minutes of our conversation, my mind was at peace. James liked to tell me about his job. How happy he was working at the restaurant or about being on his own. He shared an apartment with someone like him. But to James, he was on his own. One night as my partner and I pulled into the parking lot, I saw him looking out a window. It looked like he was waiting for someone. As we parked our car, he waved at me and then disappeared. My partner and I walked in and sat down. Our waitress came up with cups and coffee. She told me, "James has been so excited tonight and kept looking for you. He started getting worried as it was getting late, and you were still not here". I asked her, "What's up?" "I don't know?" Seconds later, I saw James coming out from the kitchen. As he walked up, he had a huge smile on his face. Smiling, he said to me, "Officer Richard, I have something special for you." James looked straight into my eyes as he handed me a cross. It was made from cardboard, wrapped with painters' tape, and colored in with a crayon. Then with a seriousness in his voice, like I had never heard from him before. He said, "I made this cross just for you. It will protect you and keep you safe." I looked at it while he spoke. I did not know what to think. It was the kindest, most thoughtful gesture, I ever received in my life. I looked up at James and assured him that his cross will never leave my side. I will cherish and care for it forever. He stood there with a big grin on his face. I stood up and gave him a hug. He said he had better get back to his work. I was holding the cross when we received a call. I left without a chance to say goodbye to James. As we headed to our call, my partner said to me, "Now, what are you going to do with your cross?" My reply was simple, "Keep it forever." I hung my cross that morning on the inside of my locker door. The next night, my partner and I stopped in at the restaurant for a coffee. With no sight of James, I asked the waitress where my friend was? All she knew was he had called the owner and said he would not be back. For the rest of the shift, all I could think about was James. I would never see or hear from James again. I came to realize that James was my guardian angel, and his cross would protect me. Just a month later. My partner and I were on a Domestic Disturbance call. We separated the couple and were trying to find out what started their argument. I turned away from the woman just for a second when I heard my partner yell for help. Something made me turn and look behind me rather than start for my partner. I saw a flash of a shiny object on my right side. I turned just in time to see her swinging a large knife for my back. I grabbed her arm and spun her to the floor. I was able to handcuff her and go to my partners' aide. When I was at my locker getting ready to go home. My buddies were asking me about the call. I noticed the cross taped to the inside of my locker door. I thought of what James had said, "It will protect you and keep you safe." His cross would hang for the next twenty-five years in my locker. Every time I opened it to get ready for work, I would see my cross and remember his words. I was involved in several more situations throughout my career that I could have been seriously injured or lost my life. Still, somehow, I always made it. In my heart, I believe James was my guardian angel, and it was his cross that protected me and kept me safe throughout my career. The day I retired and cleaned out my locker. The first thing I took was my cross. Now it's framed and hanging on my study wall as a reminder of my guardian angel and his promise the cross will protect me and keep me safe. I have never nor will I ever forget James. His cross hangs in my study as a reminder of that night and the protection it still gives me.