I recently attended the Firemen’s Ball, an annual event that highlights the work and play of the firefighters as they protect our community and our bodies from fire and other dangers.
In my experience, going nose to nose with a fire or other disaster is not something I think about every day. In fact, it’s not really on my radar although I keep my fire extinguisher current. I suspect that I am not unusual in this regard. It is only when I smell the smoke or feel the heat or when I am crunched within the crumpled body of my vehicle that the services of these mighty men become acutely important to me.
Having said that, I don’t know when I have been more impressed with any group of men. These are the guys who risk their lives to protect our property and save our lives and they are so matter of fact about it. They do their jobs and enjoy doing their jobs. I sensed that there was nothing they would rather be doing than pulling an about-to-be-cremated out of the reach of the flames – and then go back to work or to bed or to the game – whatever it was that occupied them before the beeper summoned them to duty.
The camaraderie, the mutual trust, the caring, the satisfaction they derive from their association as a group of dedicated men is really quite astonishing. From the 35-year veteran to the rookie I could sense the spirit that moved them.
Now imagine this: you are attending your daughter’s graduation. You are so proud of her beauty and her accomplishments. She is so happy to see you beaming up at her from your place in the auditorium. She is about to receive her diploma, the evidence of years of study and her passport to her future. Then your beeper goes off. Your disappointment is matched by her disappointment as you respond without a moment’s hesitation. She understands and she is proud of you for the sacrifices you make to make our lives a little less tenuous.
As a community, I would guess that we take these men and their service too much for granted. I confess that I have, to my shame. The Firemen’s Ball brought their dedication and the essential nature of their volunteerism clearly to my mind. I was proud to be part of their annual celebration and to recognize them for their service to the community.
The next time you see the lights flashing and hear the siren screaming for your attention, give them your attention, and pray for their safety. It’s no small risk that they take as they enter smoke-filled, confined spaces seeking out people still trapped in the blazing hell.
And be thankful that you live in a society that is blessed with the capacity to support their volunteer efforts. And when you think of the firefighters, think of their families, too, and the sacrifices they make for your safety.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor