Today I was lucky enough to get to be the special guest “mystery reader” for my youngest son’s 4th grade class. March at the school is reading month and his teacher tries to get “mystery readers” to come in especially ones with “interesting jobs or hobbies”.
I got to read a book about firefighting and this is where the reminder comes in. As I was reading I was also telling them about the fire truck I ride on, what my job is like, and several other details. I was also able to answer questions they had. While there it hit me or for lack of better word reminded me of the tremendous admiration children have for our profession. As they wanted to ask questions they were popping outside of their seats, arm stretched to the max, sometimes hands even waving to get my attention so they could ask their question. They hung on every answer, and loved hearing about all of the details about what life as a firefighter is like. This admiration and excitement also reminded me of the tremendous responsibility we have to set a positive example.
However, and most importantly it reminded me of the responsibility we have to fulfill the oath we have sworn to protect them and their families from fire and emergency medical incidents. They expect us to help them or their families no matter the problem. Far to often we personalize someone’s emergency, we judge it based on our belief of what is and is not an emergency, but for them it may be the worst thing that has every happened. We shouldn’t personalize problems WE SHOULD SOLVE PROBLEMS! We need to remember why we exist, SERVICE! Service to the citizens in whatever category that falls in, fire, ems, advice.
We also need to be reminded to have the same enthusiasm for our job on a daily basis that these kids did to learn about what we do. As firefighters careers lengthen they often become disenchanted with the direction or mission of the fire service, they begin to become “chair dwellers” spending their tour moving from chair to chair, avoiding training, PT, mentoring etc. Their skill set begins to degrade violating the oath we took to be ready at a moments notice to help anyone and everyone we can. John Dixon has said it best “no one instituted a draft for your service” no one made you be a firefighter, you studied hard for a written test, worked hard to pass the physical agility, prepped for interviews, and then went through a recruit school! That’s an awful lot of hard work to then decide to throw it all away! If the fire service is no longer what you desire then do us a favor and QUIT! We need firefighters who want to be firefighters! We need Fire Chiefs who want to be FIRE CHIEFS! No one should be using this job as a stepping stone, to much is on the line.
If you do not want to do it for you, then do it for those who need us, do it for the kids, your kids, your shift mates kids, the kids who run to the curb when we go past, the ones waving at us from car windows, the ones who light up when they see us. Do it for them and I guarantee it will be worth it.