The Great Contradiction of the Fire Service:
The fire service is one marked with a long tradition of service, sacrifice, teamwork, and compassion. Many departments across our country are volunteer organizations that operate with little funding or support from the community or tax base that they protect. Approximately 1,000,000 firefighters of the 1.3 million total firefighters belong to volunteer fire houses. Firefighters, whether paid or volunteer, love what they do. It is calling to most and can at times be one of the most rewarding pursuits. Many firefighters make great personal sacrifices daily such as their time, money, and dedication; all so that their community will be protected.
What then would you say is contradictory about what we do?
I have had a great burden laying heavy on my heart for a number of years now. This burden is this: I see that we will lay our lives down for someone else’s life or property but we refuse to overcome our problems with our own departments or fellow firefighters. It is a common theme that is almost everywhere you go. A Fire House will often have the majority that gets along well but inevitably there will be one or two individuals that no one would help if even if their life depended on it.
Why is this?
Where have we gone wrong?
Are we merely figuratively living out this profession but if someone calls us out, would we lose the courage of our convictions?
Are our principles only as deep as our pride or our paychecks?
Would our loved ones admire our words and actions toward our fellow brother & sister firefighters?
I compare this to my own spiritual walk as a Christian. It has been said that we should all carry a sign over our head that says “Under Construction-God’s still working on me”. Thus, we often tend to forget where we came from and lose all compassion and or sympathy for any behavior that we refuse to tolerate any more. T.D. Jakes said “Just because you graduated doesn’t mean you get to burn down the school”. My friends, if we are to truly honor the calling we have answered we must follow it with no exceptions. This applies to our family first, our co-workers second, and the citizens we serve third.
Many would say that the citizen’s we serve come first and our mission statements dictate that is true. Yet if we fail to take care of our family’s, take care of our physical, mental, and spiritual health, will we be truly taking care of our citizens if we aren’t at our best? We are often someone’s only hope when we respond in an emergency. Have we considered that we may be someone’s only hope and that someone may be the firefighter who sits next to us?
Let us ask ourselves:
What are we doing to save their life?
Are we living out our values and mission statement inside the four walls of our firehouse?
If you have found yourself in the uncomfortable position of feeling convicted about your own behavior as I have perhaps it’s time to begin the process of treating others the way you would like to be treated? Perhaps, we should realize whether it’s the homeless person, the millionaire, or the co-worker that we don’t get along with we are called to serve others not serve ourselves. This takes great courage to not respond when we are treated harshly but to treat them with respect. This takes integrity and a solid moral foundation that we stand upon. For myself this foundation is my faith. I am reminded of the following scriptures when facing these challenges:
When our work ethic exceeds others why should we continue to work hard?
“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” (Colossians 3:17). We have to realize who we are working for. In my faith, I have to remember that Christ is my boss and my work ethic ultimately reflects my dedication to Him and not to man.
When others treat us badly, why should we treat them kindly?
“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32). We have to remember that when we forgive others it is not for them. Forgiveness sets us free from the burden of carrying around bitterness and realizing that when we fail to forgive we ultimately are condemning ourselves. We can have the greatest peace in the midst of conflict by realizing that even when others hurt us we can be free by forgiving them. This can often open doors in previously closed relationships.
In closing, remember that we are called to serve others and that service begins with our family and our fellow firefighters. If we fail to treat them with kindness and respect how insincere will be our service to our citizens? If we cannot reconcile our differences we are ultimately dividing our team and diminishing our effectiveness on the fire ground. So let us take up the challenge of being morally courageous and treating others with kindness and respect no matter how we are treated. For this is true courage, to show love to those who need it most, those who hurt us with their words and their actions. We may actually then see that their actions or words are a front for a hurting heart in desperate need of rescue.
Andy J. Starnes
Bringing Back Brotherhood Ministries