Life is all about making decisions and as I write this column, I find myself in between the last big decision I made, and the one I’m about to make. I decided in March to leave my full-time job in the planning department with the municipality for which I am a volunteer firefighter. I knew unequivocally at that point that it was time for me to go. My heart wasn’t in it and my spirit had dwindled.
Some in my inner circle (OK, my mother) expressed surprise and dismay at me walking away from a secure job with good benefits. No surprise really – I’m 44 and she’s 82 and she still mothers me, but that’s what mothers do, and I’m OK with that. I’m thankful that she’s still here to do it. I knew leaving my job was the right move for me, but what we know in our hearts to be true is sometimes called into question by those we love.
Other people assumed that my husband and I were well enough off that I didn’t have to work. After hearing that comment for the second or third time, I matter-of-factly pointed out that we weren’t any better off than anyone else, that this was something I had prepared for financially, and that I would be getting another job at some point.
One co-worker in particular gave me all of the support and encouragement she could muster, in spite of losing one of her closest work buddies.
So what does my last career decision have to do with fire fighting?
I believe that we are all put here for a reason, and that reason is unique for each of us. We all have gifts buried deep within, and it’s our mission to unveil these gifts and offer them to the world.
For many of you, the gift that you share found its wings through the serving of others in the role of firefighter, fire-prevention officer, public-information officer, public-education officer, inspector, lieutenant, captain, chief, dispatcher, or any other fire-service role conceivable. You love what you do. You find your work inspiring, motivating and rewarding. You feel it in your soul that it’s what you are called to do, especially when you’ve come to the aid of someone in their time of need, and witnessed the positive effect you’ve had on the lives of – in most cases – strangers.
It’s an honour and a privilege to serve in such a way, and it’s an integral part of restoring our faith in humanity. When there is tragedy, we’re told to look for the helpers. As I write this, the wildfire in Fort McMurray is devastating the lives of Albertans – but we bear witness to acts of courage, bravery, love, determination and humanity. On the very worst days of peoples’ lives, they received the very best that people have to offer of themselves – their gifts. Whether it’s a bottle of water, a kind word, or a hug, people gave humanity back to humanity. Tragedies are just that, tragic, but they also provide us with opportunities to bare our souls to others in their times of need.
I’ve often struggled with the notion that so many people live their lives in shrouds, behind facades. Why are we so afraid to drop the bravado and just be who we really, truly are? We are vulnerable, honest, caring, compassionate, loving human beings. At our core, we all want the same things: to be loved, acknowledged and accepted for who we are.
I believe that we in the fire service do just that when we’re called upon to help others. When firefighters are putting out flames, we are working together as a team with a common goal of stopping the loss. We come together, whether it’s multiple stations, departments, provinces, or entire countries. When we’re performing a rescue, we’re present in the moment, focused on the task at hand; we’re genuine in the words we use with patients and the actions we take to get them to safety.
That is what I’m on a mission to do and that’s why I left my job at the township. I am on a mission to live a more authentic, honest, heartfelt life of service. No, I’m not joining a convent, I am simply following my heart and doing the best I can with what I’ve been given – to help humanity in whatever way I’m called to do.
I will always be in the fire service, because the love runs far too deeply for me to ever not be, and because I’ve always found a fulfilling connection to the act of helping others. Where life takes me next is anyone’s guess, but as long as I’m using my life as a vehicle for positive intention and sharing my gifts with others for the greater good, I’m OK not knowing.
Update: It turns out that my leap of faith led me to a new way of sharing my passion for the fire service – as an instructor at the Ontario Fire College. I’m blessed to be working with a fantastic team of dedicated individuals and grateful to be in a position through which I’m fortunate to meet so many members from throughout the fire service.
Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997.
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