As an "Old Guy" in this business, I often find myself marveling at all the great new ways we have now to communicate, like this blog, Face Book, and Twitter to name a few. It is so easy to stay in touch and even reconnect with long lost friends and relatives. So the other day one of those old friends texted to let me know a mutual former co-worker and friend was retiring after 25 years of service, to move on and start a second career. I went online and saw he had posted pictures of his last day on duty with his crew. He spoke of how fast the time had went and how he was grateful for the opportunity to have served with and for such amazing people, and how he had the opportunity to mentor and share with his brothers and sisters and how positively his life had been impacted by his service to his community. Wanting to send my congratulations for a job well done and praise him on a big milestone in his life, I decided to call instead of write a response.
When he answered the phone and found out who it was he immediately became very excited and said that he was so glad I had called as he needed to thank me for all I had done for him. At this point I was very confused and explained that I was a bit bewildered as we had not actually spoken in over 20 years. He was silent for a minute and I could tell he was trying to compose himself in order to speak. Then he asked me if I remembered the first time we met. I was a little embarrassed as I had to admit I did not. "It was in EMT class. You came in to assist with practical skills day."
I was still not recollecting but I said "Oh", so he continued: "The day you came in I was so discouraged and was seriously considering quitting the program and giving up my dream as I felt I was just not cut out to do this." Now I was scrambling in my brain, trying desperately to remember, but old age apparently had robbed me of that memory. He continued: "You sat down with our group and went over what we were practicing. Then you explained it and demonstrated it again. You apparently saw I was really struggling because you took me aside and basically told me to relax and that before the end of class you would have me doing this blind folded." Now I was really back pedaling, desperate to recall the story. “If not for you, I would have quit that class, dropped out of the program, and never achieved the dream I have lived." Now it was my turn to choke up. I was both humbled, yet ashamed that I could not for the life of me remember making this impact on this gentleman, but he did. Vividly.
Now I am telling this not to brag, or pat myself on the back, but to merely show the impact our words and actions, no matter how inconsequential they may be to us, can have on another. Here was a guy telling me that by being kind and caring and letting him know he could and would be successful made an impact that would be felt over the next 30 years. Like a rock thrown into a pond, the ripples were proceeding outward, and in so doing, impacting others as well. He told me how he had also become an Instructor and how he loved mentoring and teaching new folks and encouraging them just as I had encouraged him. Merely by positively impacting one life, how many other lives were affected in a positive way over those 30 years? As I pondered that thought, he said "I am so glad you called. I have always wanted to tell you what that meant." Mind Blown...
As the senior firefighter, as the Company Officer, or Chief Officer, always take time to mentor, encourage, teach, and praise your peers especially those who are new to the culture. Take time to teach them the things they need to know to make it the next 20-25 years. Encourage them to do it the right way and to uphold the standards and comradery we have been so fortunate to be a part of. Start your own ripple and watch it spread. And remember that those negative things you say and do now, can also have the same effect, in a much more sinister way. A recent situation many of you are surely familiar with, in which things said anonymously, and posted onto a public forum, may have contributed to one of our own taking her life. Please take time to think about your words and actions. Make a positive impact on the lives around you. Stay safe brothers and sisters.