Does your family have traditions that they routinely practice during the holiday season? Each Christmas Eve, my family attends an afternoon church service and then scrambles to a local theatre to watch a movie before hurrying home for a late dinner and a night of gift giving. Each year we laugh and try to recall how and why this tradition of a ‘holiday movie’ evolved. A close friend of mine tells me that every year their Christmas dinner consists of oyster stew and chili. She has no recollection of how it all began but their kids, now grown, have come to demand this strange culinary spread. Another friend of mine throws a Christmas Eve party for friends, neighbors and family. She bills it as the “holiday stress free zone” having witnessed the tradition originate with her mother.

As strange as some of our American traditions may be around the holidays, foreign countries often rival or exceed our routines. For instance, Austrian children live in fear of Krampus, a Christmas devil who’s said to beat naughty children with branches. Germans hide a pickle in the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. The first child to find it in the morning receives a small gift. And thanks to a powerful advertising campaign in 1974, many Japanese families eat Kentucky Fried Chicken on Christmas Eve!

Tradition is defined as “…the handing down of beliefs, legends, customs, and practices often from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice.” Although their origins are sometimes lost to history, at one time they had a specific meaning and purpose.

There were many reasons that led up to the origins of the Kentucky State Police in 1948. Providing professional and reliable law enforcement to rural areas of the state was the cornerstone of our humble beginnings. From those early days, we quickly developed a tradition of helping those in our communities that desperately need assistance. Our outreach takes many forms beyond the traditional police mission such as sending hundreds of children to Trooper Island each summer or providing gifts to thousands of needy kids at Christmas through our ‘Shop with a Trooper’ program. Over the past four years we have collected over 354 tons of food for local food banks, homeless shelters and churches through our ‘Cram the Cruiser’ project.

Our tradition of service runs deep throughout the history of our agency and is recognized across the state, as evidenced by the strong level of public support we enjoy. Our actions make a positive impact in ways that we may never be fully cognizant of. I’m reminded of a quote that I use when teaching customer service to new employees during the ‘Welcome Aboard’ program: “The way we do business is often times more important than the business we’re in.” Borrowed from the Hilton Hotel chain, it speaks volumes in regards to how the Kentucky State Police operates.

Although our spirit of service and servant leadership takes place year round, it’s never more evident than during this season of giving. As we close out 2015, I’m thankful that I am part of such a robust and caring agency full of people who are truly committed to changing the lives of those in need.

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