Pastoral thoughts from a United Methodist in Western Kentucky (USA)
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
A Well-Deserved and Usually Forgotten Thank You
This Saturday, there is a dinner honoring and thanking the firefighters and spouses of the Reidland-Farley fire district, and they will be presented a gift. Our church, along with all of the Reidland area churches, is helping to contribute to and support that cause.
I was a firefighter for several years, and worked in paid, paid-on-call, and volunteer capacities. I served as a dispatcher, a nozzleman, a driver/engineer, a chaplain, and as a line officer. It is hard work, it is dirty work, and it is dangerous work. I retired from the fire service in 2001.
We are very blessed to have the fire department that we have. They are well-equipped and very well trained. And I am always very quick to correct folks when they say that someone is “only” a volunteer firefighter or that their local fire department is “only a volunteer department.” In this day in age, volunteer firefighters and departments - by law - have to have the same training and certification as paid firefighters do. And, because volunteers are on call 24/7, they actually work more fires and have more experience than several career firefighters. Why do they do it? They love and care about their communities.
It takes time; time away from families, time away for leisure activities, and when duty calls, time away from things like Christmas and birthday gatherings. Nearly everyday a fire engine or ambulance drives by my office. As I glace up, I see a fire helmet and shadowbox of badges from former departments I served hanging on the wall next to the window, and I always say two prayers: I thank God that I was never seriously hurt or left my family without a husband and father, and I pray that the men and women in that fire engine or ambulance are also spared from harm.
Author Kurt Vonnegut once said, “I can’t imagine a more stirring symbol of man’s humanity to man than a fire engine.” And he once told his wife, “[A] fire engine goes by… And I give them the thumbs up.”
Next time you see a firefighter, thank God and them for their service. And whenever you see a fire engine, whether on an emergency run or not, give them the thumbs up. Pray that God keeps them safe. For all you know, they may be on their way to your house.