Are You Contagious?

The question of contagion is one which has struck fear into the hearts of civilization for ages.


The question of contagion is one which has struck fear into the hearts of civilization for ages. Usually it refers to something really bad. The old scourges of scarlet fever, whooping cough, and polio have given way to such horrors as AIDs. We also face the threat of terror spread in the form of contagious diseases. Look at the way flu can run through a family or a fire department.

That, my friends, is not the form of contagion to which I make reference. I speak of something as simple as an infectious smile. My reference is to the enthusiasm that seems to radiate off of some people. You know the type. When you are around them, you just want to be with them and work with them. These are the sort of folks who can mobilize a form of symbiosis within a group or an organization that just seem to bring out the best in everyone.

Do you like being a member of the fire service? I know I do. If that is the case, do not keep it a secret. Exude the fire service everywhere that you go. I have done this for years now and have yet to experience a bad moment.

As I was writing this commentary, an email shot into my mailbox from a good buddy who is a member of our Wednesday night band. I would like to share it with you.

"An idealist believes the short run doesn't count. A cynic believes the long run doesn't matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run." Sydney J. Harris

Perhaps this is why I write so much. During my decades in the fire service, I have seen a great many bad things happen in the short run. I have also seen fabulous results emerge in the long run, in spite of the efforts of many to kill these ideas in the short run. Perhaps it is this belief in the relative greatness within the human spirit that motivates me to keep writing and hoping for the future.

I have encountered this concept of contagious spirit twice in the past week. After the second instance, I took it as a sign from above that I should make the third reference. In each case, I was moved by the spirit of the messenger to address the concept.

The first instance involved the inspiring words of Bill Zwiep, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, contained within the pages of The Herald, the monthly journal of the Reformed Church in America. In his commentary, Becoming Contagious, he spoke to the need for people in society to become contagious Christians. He spoke about his belief that an effective Christian needs to share their love of the Lord with others. He is strongly recommending that people need to become contagious Christians. Their love must be so contagious that others near them catch it and carry it forward to new heights of success.

I have seen this sort of contagion at work in the fire service, and I am sure you have too. Think of the finest leader from whom you ever labored in the fire service vineyards. You wanted to be with them. You wanted to share their efforts and their labors. They made life worth living.

If you can remember them from the early 1970