Canadian Firefighter Magazine


Jennifer Grigg   

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Dec. 15, 2014, Port Severn, Ont. – There’s a quote often misattributed to William Shakespeare: The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

Many of us have discovered our gifts through the fire service; we give those gifts away by attending the emergencies to which we are called. Our gifts are evident in the way we treat patients and their concerned family members during medical calls, in our efforts to extricate and treat people involved in collisions as quickly and safely as we can, or in the way we organize and deploy equipment and manpower to contain and extinguish fires and protect homes and property from further damage. When we’re out in our communities, providing life-saving fire prevention education to the children in the schools and the residents in our neighbourhoods, we’re also giving our gifts.

Sometimes, during our service, we are forced realize that life is about much more than just us. When we lose someone on whom we’ve feverishly done CPR while waiting for the paramedics to arrive and provide further treatment, we’re affected. When we try to console family members but find that our words offer little consolation, we feel helpless. When we’ve witnessed a child with a life-threatening injury, it weighs heavily on us; we go home and hug our children, hold them tighter and say a silent prayer of thanksgiving for their safety. Witnessing the devastation of people’s homes and lives after a fire makes us appreciate what we have.

These situations cause us to stop and reflect on the important things in life; our families, our spouses, our children, and our brothers and sisters in the fire service with whom we’ve just gone through a tough experience. These are the things that really matter in life.

A line-of-duty death gets everyone’s attention; no matter what’s going on in your life, when you see a post on social media, or hear about it from other members in the fire service, it makes you pause and reflect. Honestly, it makes most people pause for a moment, but the response is deeper than that for firefighters; it affects us on a visceral level. It hits home. No matter where the firefighter is from and no matter where we live, we all feel it. We know it could have been one of us or one of our brothers or sisters in our department, or someone we know on another department. We empathize with fellow firefighters as they grieve the loss of one of their own. How could it not hit home?

We put ourselves in the place of the firefighter who died. What a terrifying thought. We’ve pretty well all been in a situation, at one time or another, that had the potential to turn out that way.

And just when the fear of that moment and the realization of the potential danger in which we’re putting ourselves starts to sink in, you remember that you possess something more powerful than fear: you remember that we’re here to serve, and we’ve been incredibly blessed to discover a gift in ourselves that not everyone has. It’s a unique breed of people who have a passion for the fire service. We all have our unique gifts to share, and being a member of the fire service is ours.

None of us knows when our time will come. Therefore, we should strive to share our gifts as genuinely and as often as we can. You know you are always a firefighter, whether you’re on duty or not; remember that when you go about your day, no matter where you are or what you are doing. Let everyone who crosses your path benefit from what you have to share.

Give away that gift of yours.

Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at and follow her on Twitter at @georgianbayjen

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