On the evening of September 20th, just hours after the shocking and tragic shooting at Mattoon High School, a prayer vigil was held across the street from the school. As I would guess those who also attended would agree, it was very well attended.

But far more important than the number of attendees is why people came at all.

It is a sad but very real fact that we sometimes must experience a shocking or even tragic event in order to not only fully appreciate those things which are truly important, but to give thanks for them. Wednesday evening’s vigil was a heartfelt and heartwarming recognition of the importance of giving thanks, right here in Mattoon.

And as we all become fixated by our busy, day-to-day lives, we tend to forget, or at least take for granted, two groups of men and women who serve us every day, although on most days that service goes completely unnoticed.

First, our officials in law enforcement. Their prompt and overwhelming response Wednesday demonstrated their collective desire to “protect and serve” in exemplary fashion. In a day and age when law enforcement has all too often become the target of hatred and harassment, I am thankful that not just on the day of the shooting, but every day, they risk their lives to protect us all.

Secondly, the men and women of the Mattoon School District. Like on other days that are not so publicized, they acted out of concern for the safety of this community’s children who were in their care. In accordance with their training, they worked in a prompt and orderly fashion to secure the area and remove students from the building. They are to be congratulated and thanked for handling this tragedy in such a professional, dignified, and compassionate manner.

Like all Americans, sometimes we fall into the trap of focusing on those things we find wrong in our society; such is the challenge of living in a nation so blessed with wealth and freedom. But as the Scriptures teach us, we are not promised tomorrow. So let us give thanks to these groups of public servants, who work daily to ensure our children are safe for tomorrow.

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