We in the fire service have been waiting for someone to solve all of our problems. It would seem as thought we have been seeking a mystical White Knight, riding astride their noble warrior steed. It is this magical person who will, we dearly believe, ride into our town and save us from ourselves. What a load of manure.
The answers to all of our problems must come from within. If we are in need of members, we need to ask ourselves why we constantly need to search for new ones, when we have a terrible track record of running off the old ones. Time is at a premium in today’s high-speed, low-drag world. In a world populated with people who constantly ask the question, “… What’s in it for me, “: we must develop an answer.
Quite simply, we must change, or we will go the way of the Dodo bird. We will become a fond memory and little more. I know that my Brother Masons and I are well aware of this particular problem. Heck, when I entered my lodge at the age of 50 years, I was considered to be young blood. But the members of my lodge quickly embraced me, and allowed me to assume a position of junior leadership. They have then allowed me to grow in responsibility, as I have come to know more about our fraternity. I have gained great strength and resolve from my interaction with the brethren.
We in the fire service are continuing to experience recruiting problems. That is a well-known fact. But we have one thing going for us that gives us a leg up in the recruiting world. We can ask people to join our fire departments. Maybe we don’t, but we sure can.
Let me share a little wisdom with you. I cannot ask you to become a Mason. That is a cardinal rule within the Brotherhood. You must want to become a Mason. Then you ask and we work hard to share our fraternity with you. I have created an ongoing awareness within a number of friends as to the positive aspects of the Masonic world. I have shared what being as Mason has meant to me, and the values that it allows me to live within. Some have embarked on the journey with me, and others have not.
We need to learn what our younger generation wants out of life. We need to make such adaptations as are necessary to insure that we survive and prosper. What good is it to maintain a purity of spirit within a dying organization? If we need to modify our organization to meet the needs of a changing community, then by all means, let’s do it.
When people ask us what’s in it for them, we must have an answer that makes sense to someone who cannot tell you where they were when President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. When we ask someone to do something, we must be able to give that person a logical, fact-based, authoritative answer that is appropriate for the real world of today.
It is my opinion that there are people out there who want to join the fire service. But these are people who put a premium on their free time. We do not need to subject them to meaningless rituals that have no bearing on the delivery of fire protection services. These are people with a certain innate intelligence who will not stand for being abused and treated like crap by minor dictators.
The day of the Dictatorial Fire Chief is long gone (or should be). Do not get me wrong. Someone will always have to be in charge. But the most successful leaders have always built their power on the strength of those they are allowed to lead. If we can find that spark of dedication out there in our communities, it is up to us to fan it to a high level of enthusiasm. If we can do this, we will prosper. But if we continue to operate wet-blanket fire departments, we will die.