Feb. 16, 2012 – I was recently approached by two different people asking for advice on becoming a volunteer firefighter. The first fella got in touch with me through the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Association (CVFSA), and the second was an old friend from high school, who reached me through Facebook.
David was looking for something new and challenging to get involved in and came across the CVFSA website while researching volunteer fire fighting. He then e-mailed the president of the CVFSA looking for information about becoming a volunteer firefighter in the province of Ontario. The president put him in touch with the director for Ontario, Dave Thomson, and me, the assistant director.
I replied to David and gave him an overview of the local recruitment process in my area, and suggested that he contact the local municipalities in his area to find out about their recruitment programs, and then I offered to take him on tour of my own fire hall if he was interested.
My old high school chum, Kevin, was also looking for something new and challenging to sink his teeth into and knew I was a volunteer firefighter, so he figured I could tell him what it’s all about. I explained the recruitment process for the local fire departments to him as well, and I offered to give him a tour of the hall should he want to check it out and see firsthand what it’s all about.
Then I joked with him about how great it is to be our age and still trying to figure out what to do when we grow up . . . glad I’m not the only one!
You may be asking yourself, what’s with the tour of the fire hall?
When you’re curious about a new venture, volunteer or otherwise, it helps so much to know someone that can open a door for you, and offer you the opportunity to check things out. As a director of the CVFSA, it only makes sense that I would assist someone that reached me through the association however I can.
But it’s more than that. Regardless of whether someone knows me or not, when asked for information on something that I myself am involved in and enjoy so much, I’m glad to help.
Whether these guys decide to join a volunteer fire department or not, it’s an opportunity for me to talk about something I’m passionate about, a chance to show them what being a volunteer firefighter is all about, and maybe – just maybe – ignite the spark inside them that gets them thinking, "Hey, this is pretty cool. I should join!"
I’m reminded of my brother’s funeral in Okotoks, Alta., last June, when a very dear friend of his, a six-foot-something-tall, leather-clad biker type named Mike, got up to say a few words. While choking back tears, he recounted the story of when he first met my brother at a dirt bike track. (My brother was an avid lifelong motocross racer – even winning the Canadian
championship in his day – and lived to ride, both motocross and street bikes.)
Mike explained how, on his first attempt at riding a dirt bike, he crashed hard. My brother came flying along the track and stopped to make sure “new guy” still had all of his teeth. Then he took the time to give him some pointers on what he was doing wrong, and how to do it right next time. The impact of my brother’s kindness in that one moment, and its effect on Mike, was obvious. They remained friends over the next 20 years and clearly, Mike was devastated to have lost such a great friend.
My brother was just doing what he loved. He saw someone that needed a hand and helped him out, happy to share his knowledge and experience . . . and very likely had no idea just what kind of ripple effect he started.
Moral of the story? Something that takes five minutes out of your day could mean the world to the someone you gave the five minutes to.