The Joy of Serving

Why are there so many people in our fire departments who revel in stomping around our fire stations and emergency scenes with solemn faces?

Why are there so many people in our fire departments who revel in stomping around our fire stations and emergency scenes with solemn faces? Far too many people seem to act as though they were having a root canal in a dentist's office without an anesthetic. Far too many people seem as though they are preparing to enter the proctologist's office for a penetrating probe of their posterior.

Why? All I want to know is why?

Is there a rule that we all have to wander around being glum, dismayed, and confused? Is it because we are the offspring of strong peasant stock, or because our heroes are the strong, silent type who never seemed to derive any joy in doing their good works?

Are we so solemn because of the perceived importance of our chosen duties and responsibilities? This seems to be happening to far too many people. They build up fabulous images of themselves and their self-importance in their own minds? Or is it that these people adopt the solemn posture of pompous, personal pre-eminence? They are too self important to be perceived as being normal or human. Statues of the great seem to be scowling all the time, so these pompous putzes adopt the scowl as their facial image. Whatever the reason, I am here to tell you that it is time to begin changing what we do and how we do when it comes to being service-oriented organizations.

Let's all lighten up a bit gang. It does not have to be all doom, gloom, and denial. For whatever the reason, we have been called upon to serve our fellow citizens. We need to embrace what we do with a joy that allows us to overcome the adversities with which we will almost certainly come face-to-face.

Nearly four decades of my life have been devoted to serving my fellow citizens in one way or another. Whether it was the Freehold First Aid Squad, the U.S. Air Force Fire Department, the Rahway Fire Department, the Newark Fire Department, or the Adelphia Fire Company, my approach has been the same. We have a critical task to perform, but there is no written law that says we must hate what we do.

I have worked to approach even the most dangerous of circumstances with a light-hearted manner. This is not to say that I have operated oblivious to the dangers of my duties. I never leapt out of the frying pan into the fire without a thorough evaluation of the dangers involved in delivering a fire or rescue service.

That is just plain stupid. Nevertheless, I always tried to make the best of whatever curve balls the fates of fire threw at my buddies and I.

There have been times during which my service in each of these organizations seemed to become like pure drudgery. However, upon deep reflection, it turns out that it was not the tasks, but rather the people that made things a good or bad experience.

It is up to the leader to create an environment within which we will not only do good things, but do these things and gain a bit of enjoyment. A good leader can, and must, work to create an environment wherein each of us is caused to grow in skill, knowledge, and service delivery capabilities.

That requires a great deal from those who step forward to lead their associates. Each member of the team is an individual person. Each has grown to adulthood in a different manner. Some come from happy families, others from dysfunctional environments. Each individual possesses a unique personality. They are who they are because of the where, how, and why of their process of growth and maturation.

It is because of this fact that every member of your team requires part of the leader's time, talents, and thought processes. It may well be that the least of us requires the most from the captain of the team.

None of us is a self-made creation. We are the sum product of all that has occurred during our lives. If we turn out well, it is because someone, somewhere along the line, believed in us. They saw something in us that stimulated them to share what they knew with us. If we are fortunate they also shared their love of life with us.

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