Christmas has always been a special time of year for my family and as I reflect back, one experience in particular holds a special place in my heart.
It was Christmas Eve, 1971 and because it was only my second year on the job with Edmonton Police Service, I was scheduled to work. I lived at home at the time, I was 21 years old and my parents were not impressed that I was not going to be with the family on Christmas Eve for the first time in my life. I certainly resented the fact that I was going to be out all night in the cold while everyone else was eating and celebrating.
I started my shift that evening and the streets seemed to have a sense of calm that I had not experienced before. Protected from the cold by my Buffalo coat, I walked the beat around 95th Street and 118th Avenue in Edmonton, an area known for its churches and recreation centres.
One particular church caught my attention. It had a soft glow and I could hear the sounds of a choir singing. Just before midnight, the church service ended and people began spilling out on to the street. Everyone was in high spirits, children were excited, and people were shaking hands and hugging, wishing each other a Merry Christmas.
All of these people approached me with the same warmth of the season; thanking me for keeping them safe on Christmas Eve and wishing me joy, happiness and good health. The ambiance was incredible and I felt a part of something bigger than myself.
After the crowd made their way home, it again became quiet. Huge snowflakes began falling, illuminating the sky and it struck me as I stood on that silent street, that I was experiencing peace on earth.
I spent the rest of my shift thinking about that moment. I always enjoyed Christmas, but my experience working as a young constable that night changed my understanding of what it all means.
When I returned home on Christmas morning from my night shift, my father was hoping for some good stories. I know I surprised him when I described the opposite – instead of bad guys and arrests, I described to him in great detail my experience of peace.
That moment never left me and I often reflect back and remind myself that Christmas is a time for family and friends; it is a time for slowing down and pausing our hectic lives.
It is easy to become caught up in the chaos of the season; the shopping, the social functions, the presents and the overall glitter, but Christmas is an occasion to enjoy the quiet stillness and simplicity of the Holiday.
My wish for all of you this Christmas is that you have an opportunity to enjoy a sense of peace and joy your lives.
Jim Cessford is the chief of the Delta Police Department and has spent more than 40 years in law enforcement.