When the Sleigh Is Out the Rig Fills In
Have you ever noticed that if Santa is in a parade, being delivered to a public function or is just needing a ride around town, that it’s usually a fire engine filling in for the sleigh? Now I don’t get much snow where I live and sleighs are rarely seen. In fact the closest thing we have to a sleigh or even a sled is an old tire inner tube roped back to a 4 wheeler (snow not required). The task of delivering Santa in our communities could be dealt out to a number of organizations but I have to say that it appears we pretty much rule the list as the 1st choice. Why is that?
Is it the big red truck and the flashing lights or is there more to it? I think there is more to it. I think we are asked to do it for several reasons. Most of our organizations set the example of serving the community. Just like the tales of Santa delivering toys all over the world to every child not on the naughty list, we take care of the community members’ problems. We even one up Santa in that we don’t have a naughty list. We don’t care if you’ve been naughty or nice you are going to get the same service from us. Why is that?
We have a long history of hiring individuals that are service oriented. Although we may not get it right every time and with generational changes there are always organizational challenges, there are still enough of the “servant leader” types to set the example. A large percentage of these individuals reside in the company officer ranks. They do things on a daily bases that create our organizations relationship with the community. Oftentimes what starts out as a small station initiated activity like a toy drive for a family in your response district, a meal at the fire station for a couple of families in need that you met during an incident, a party with some of the neighborhood kids at the station and surprising them with bicycles, footballs, Barbies and new shoes, grows legs and becomes a big political event for the department. Our headquarters staff gets involved and event grows and serves even more people but at a point it begins to lose its humble selfless identity and it too becomes a commercialized event. Soon there are politicians, community leaders, and headquarters staff. There are speakers and handshakes and in the hustle and bustle of the public relations angle the firefighters that started the whole thing get a quick honorable mention and then are left to clean up once everyone is gone. While those type of events are good for the organization as a whole they don’t make our reputation with the community.
I get a good feeling when see and hear the stories that don’t make the news or become a local photo opportunity. These are pure acts of kindness that individual company officers or members take part in with no approval from there chain of command. A fire house in Ohio that decides to ask all the members to bring in old coats and they quietly ride around town looking for those individuals living on the street to give them to. The fire house in Georgia that stops by to check on a family, who has moved in to neighbor’s house, after a fire destroyed their home. In August they made sure the kids had school supplies, book bags and shoes and now they are hiding toys in the storage room to make sure the kids have something for Christmas. The fire house in California that collects food and quietly distributes it to multiple families in need during Thanksgiving and Christmas. While these are just a few examples quiet humble servant leaders among our ranks there are stories like these in almost every fire department across the nation.
For those of you out there doing what needs to be done on your own with no recognition, no expectation of recognition and you are purposely being as clandestine as possible within your organization, I say thanks on behalf of the fire service. You get it. You understand who we are and what we are supposed to be doing. You care. You are the reason Santa rides into town on a fire truck!