Transparent beads from a light rain danced across Officer Roberts’ windshield as he slowly wove his patrol car along the damp, dark streets and alleys of his beat. It was just after 3:00 AM. The lull in activity that usually occurs at this hour – along with the drone of the car’s heater and the hypnotic, rhythmic motion of the wiper blades across the windshield – was beginning to make Roberts drowsy.
The three tone alert from the police radio shattered the stillness that enveloped Roberts like a warm blanket. A silent alarm at a nearby church had been triggered, and Roberts and three other officers were dispatched. Roberts recognized the church address immediately; it was the church Roberts regularly attends.
He activated the overhead flashing lights, stepped up the speed, and steered toward the direction of the church. Roberts knew that if they were going to apprehend the offender, they had to move quickly and quietly.
Clinton Haig was only 26, but had a long criminal history. A drug addict since he was 15, Haig never held a legitimate job. He fathered two daughters whom he rarely saw. Like many drug abusers, Haig was a prolific and proficient thief.
Haig forced open the back door of the church, entered, and quickly made his way to the offices. In his haste to remove a computer, he knocked a stack of seminar announcements off a desk. He glanced toward the floor at the scattered brochures, and in the dim lighting could make out the picture of a young girl, looking melancholy. Underneath the photo was the caption: “’Where’s Daddy?’ A Seminar for Single Moms.”
Haig stood motionless. The words and photo resonated and flooded him with an intense sadness. Haig could hear the longing in his daughters’ voices and see the sorrow in their faces as vividly as if they were standing in front of him at that moment. He reflected on a lifetime of poor choices and regret. He considered abandoning tonight’s mission and taking steps to change his life, but he didn’t know how, or believe he had the strength or hope to try. Abruptly, he shook loose the thoughts of his daughters, stepped over the spilt brochures, and headed out the back door with the computer in his hands.
“Police! Stop! Don’t move!” commanded Roberts. He and his fellow officers had surrounded the church and were outside waiting when Haig emerged. Outnumbered and nowhere to run, Haig surrendered.
Afterward, Roberts and Officers Simms and Kline gathered. Haig sat handcuffed in the back seat of Roberts’ car nearby. Simms, who knew Haig and his criminal history, sardonically asked, “Haig. When are you gonna stop stealing?”
Kline quipped, “He wasn’t stealing; he broke into the church to pray for forgiveness.”
“Pray?! Right. When pigs fly,” replied Simms.
Later, during the interview at the jail, Roberts got a clearer picture of Haig. Roberts was passionate about prosecuting criminals, but never forgot they were human beings and still worthy of dignity and respect.
After the interview, Roberts handed Haig his business card and told him, “If you have any questions or need anything, give me a call.” Roberts had written a bible verse on the back of the card.
“Oh, and you should come by the church again sometime. I’m a member there. I think you’d like it. Only next time, come on a Sunday morning when the doors are open.”
Haig nodded again, then turned and entered the intake cell of the jail. Roberts closed and locked the door.
Eight months had passed since the burglary. While standing near the sanctuary entrance in his role as usher one Sunday morning, Roberts was approached by a man he faintly recognized. Reaching out his right arm to shake hands with Roberts, the man said, “Officer Roberts? Do you remember me? I’m Clinton Haig. You arrested me about eight months ago.”
Roberts was astonished to see Haig. They shook hands. “I sure do remember you. You look good,” said Roberts. Puzzled by his appearance at church, Roberts asked, “What brings you here?”
“After that night, I spent a lot of time in jail, and I did a lot of thinking. I got a bible while I was there. And, for the first time in my life I picked it up and started to read it. Well, I guess what I’m trying to say is: I came here to pray for forgiveness.”
Roberts beamed. He handed Haig a church program and escorted him inside.
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