Hump Day S.O.S.
B y D a v i d R h o d e s W hen the official Santa sleigh is out of service or there is no snow or no reindeer available, someone must step up to help Santa get where he is going. Have you ever noticed that if Santa is in a parade, being delivered to a public function, or just needing a ride around town that it’s usually a fire ngine or truck filling in for the sleigh? Now, we don’t get much snow where I live and sleighs are rarely seen.
In fact, the closest thing we have to a sleigh or even
a sled is an old tire innertube roped back to the four-
wheeler or four-wheel drive truck (snow not required).
The task of delivering Santa in our communities could
be dealt out to several organizations, but I must say
that it appears the fire service pretty much rules the list
as the first choice. Why is that?
Is it the big red truck and the flashing lights or is there
more to it? I think there is more to it. I think we are
asked to do it for several reasons. Most of our American fire organizations set the example of serving the
community. Just like the tales of Santa delivering toys
all over the world to every child not on the naughty list,
we take care of the community members’ problems. We
even one up Santa in that we don’t have a naughty list.
We don’t care if you’ve been naughty or nice, you are
going to get the same service from us. Why is that?
We have a long history of hiring individuals who
are service oriented. Although we may not get it right
every time, and with generational changes there are
always organizational challenges, there are still enough
of the “servant leader” types to set the example. A large
percentage of these individuals reside in the company
officer ranks. They do things daily that create our
organization’s relationship with the community. Often,
what starts out as a small station initiated activity—like
a toy drive for a family in your response district; a meal
at the fire station for a couple of families in need who
you met during an incident; or a party with some of
the neighborhood kids at the station where you surprise
them with new toys, clothes, and shoes—grows legs and
becomes a big political event for a department.
NO THANKS NECESSARY
While these types of events are good for the
organization, these once-a-year events don’t make
our reputation with the community like the numer-
ous acts of kindness throughout the year that go
unnoticed by the organization, the media, or political
leaders. I’m not talking about doing a good job on an
incident; that’s what we are expected and supposed
to do. I’m talking about the extra mile you go when
no one is looking. With these acts, there is no agenda
other than pure kindness and service to other human
beings—a small attempt at making someone’s day or
in general just doing the right thing.
I get a good feeling when I see or hear the stories
that don’t make the news or become a local photo
opportunity. These are pure acts of kindness that
individual company officers or members take part in
with no approval from anyone’s chain of command.
For example, a firehouse in Ohio asks all the members
to bring in old coats and then the members quietly
ride around town looking for individuals living on the
street to give them to. A firehouse in Georgia stops by
to check on a family who has moved in to a neighbor’s
house after a fire destroyed their home. They made
sure the kids had school supplies, book bags, and shoes
and then hid toys in the storage room to make sure
the kids have something for Christmas. A firehouse
in California collects food and quietly distributes it
to multiple families in need during Thanksgiving and
Christmas. While these are just a few examples of the
quiet and humble servant leaders among our ranks,
there are stories like these in almost every fire department across the nation.
For those of you doing what needs to be done on your
own with no recognition and no expectation of
recognition, and purposefully being as clandestine as
possible within your organization to maintain the purity
of kindness, I say thank you on behalf of the entire fire
service. You get it. You understand who we are and what
we are supposed to be doing. Most of all, you care! You
are the reason Santa rides into town on a fire truck!
David Rhodes is a 31-year fire service veteran. He is a chief elder
for the Georgia Smoke Diver Program, a member of the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) International Executive Advisory
Board, a hands-on training coordinator for FDIC, an editorial advisor
for Fire Engineering and the UL Fire Safety Research Institute, and
an adjunct instructor for the Georgia Fire Academy. He is a Type III
incident commander for the Georgia Emergency Management-Metro
Atlanta All Hazards Incident Management Team and is a task force
leader for the Georgia Search and Rescue Team. He is president of
Rhodes Consultants, Inc., which provides public safety training,
consulting, and promotional assessment centers.
Good for Goodness Sake
Why Santa rides in on a fire truck