1. Your time
2. Your talents
3. Your treasures
These are not easy gifts to give. You only have so much time in your life. You only have certain talents, and your talents may be different than those of your fellow firefighters. However, these talents exist and they have value. Let me also suggest that your treasures in this case will not be in the form of financial wherewithal. No my friends, I am referring to the knowledge, friendship, trust, hard work, and dedication which you should make available to your fellow travelers in the fire service.
However, this will not always be an easy thing to do. Let me assure you that there are a great many people in this life who will not share your charitable nature and your love of the fire service. Many are the folks who will actually belittle you for believing that what we do is actually an act of charity for our communities. They will not understand the joy that you and I get from helping someone who is in trouble, so they will make fun of you. Suck it up and push on.
As we look forward to the year 2011, please remember that there will be the good days when each of us wants to sally forth from our homes to ride out in defense of our communities. Then there will be the wet days when we might not want to leave our dry homes, but we will. There will be those nights when we really do not want to get up from a snug, warm bed to rush out into a cold night; but we will. And sometimes there will be those times when you are jolted from your daily routine to meet some sudden, desperate need. At other times you will be summoned to respond to yet another alarm call. That is our lot my friends. There is a great deal of uncertainty in what we do.
Do not think for a moment that everyone will appreciate what we do. How many times have you responded to a call for help only to be belittled for this reason or that? What took you so long? How come you broke my windows? Why did you cut a hole in my roof? Even in your own departments you will hear the cry of what have you done for me lately? On and on goes the litany of woes which you and I will be forced to encounter as we seek to do good works in our communities.
That is just the way it is my friends. We do what we do out of love. Sometimes we share a love for our fellow firefighters. At other times we share a love for those who may be in need of our assistance. And at still other times, we will be doing what we do in spite of the other people with whom we respond.
Our time in the fire service is not all peaches and cream. Many are the folks with whom I have worked through the years who simply did not like me. However, regardless of their animosity toward me, I would not let them drive me away from my love for the fire service I have served since 1966.
It took a long time for me to understand that I could not control their feelings about me. I can only control me and how I respond to the world around me. That is something which I would like to share with you, because the same things which impact me will have an impact upon you. In this joyous season of love, do not let a lack of love by some folks depress you or drive you away from the important things that we do as firefighters and fire officers.
Let me suggest that during this Christmas season you should reach out to enjoy the company of others. Do not allow yourself to be walled off from the world and become a latter-day version of Charles Dickens' immortal character Ebenezer Scrooge, hiding behind the curtains of his bedroom, cowering in his bedclothes. The life I am suggesting that you live is best typified by the Ghost of Christmases to Come. You should seek to have an impact upon the world through the simple giving of yourself to others.