VALUE …it’s a big word for firefighters…. yea, I know…. “mayonnaise” is a big word for firefighters but I’m talking about a different kind of “big”. I’m talking about the meaning of the word more than the spelling or pronunciation (oops… there’s another “big en”…lol). Let me see if I can get this story out and tell ya what’s on my mind.
Today, my daughters and I went to school lunch with “The Buckaroo”. They called it “Lunch With a Loved One”.
You should have seen his eyes light up when his class came down the hallway and he spotted us.
Following lunch, they were having a book fair in the library and parents were allowed / asked to accompany their kids.
Seeing as how the Buckaroo’s aunt (my oldest daughter) is a librarian, he’s been just as excited about the fair as he was the lunch. We had predetermined that Buckaroo could get 3 books. Two of those were to be “quality” books (as in books with lessons / teaching points etc). The 3rd could be whatever he wanted.
I stopped by the rest room and was a little behind them getting to the library. It must have been fate because my tardiness allowed me to encounter a young mother and her son, who was about the Buckaroos age; standing by the library door.
I thought they were standing there looking in the window or waiting on someone but, in fact; they were preparing. The mother was counting out loose change… pennies. As I entered, I heard her reach their total of $6.13 and explain to him that it was all they had.
They must have followed me in and afterwards, he caught my attention several times. He reminded me a lot of me and my brother when we were that age.
He was very excited! I watched him rush from display to display picking out which book he’d like to get. Several times, his mother would have to explain that they didn’t have enough (money) for that one. Before long, he had chosen two, very small; “pocket” type books. Then he spotted another he wanted.
Again, I could see his excitement! It was as if he never imagined a book such as that existing. Again I overheard the mother as she quietly explained that they didn’t have enough money for all three. He would have to choose between the two pocket size books or this new one he’d found. The decision was easy for him but he didn’t drop the smaller books right there.
Instead, he ran back across the room and put them back in their place, exactly as and where he had found them. He then made his way back to his mother and picked up his new found gem. He asked again if they had enough and she nodded yes. He must have wanted to scream with joy but instead hugged the book tight to his chest as he quietly jumped / hopped up and down and thanked her. The “value” of that book increased significantly at that moment!
I heard the mom tell him that they should stand “over here” (back in the corner) for a while and wait for the check out line to thin out. I can only imagine that her reasoning was to not hold up or disrupt the flow as she’d need to count out her change once again.
As they walked past me, I spoke to him. Actually, I called him by name. “Hey ####### are you having fun today?” Again, you should have seen him “light up”. “Yes sir …. do you want see the book I get to buy?”
How could I say no? I took the book from is outstretched arms and knelt to his level. Together, we thumbed through the book as he explained who or what the pictures were. After several minutes, I congratulated him on his find and he made his way to the corner. As I stood, I spoke to the mother saying how nice it was to see a a child that excited about reading / books. She agreed with a prideful smile.
I explained that I was The Buckaroo’s Paw-Paw and that my oldest daughter (standing over there) was a librarian. I then asked if I could buy her son’s book for them. Actually, it wasn’t really like asking because I was handing her some cash as I asked. When our hands met, she gently squeezed mine and told me that I didn’t have to do that. “I know” I said … “I want to”. I further explained that there was enough there that maybe he could get a few of the others he wanted as well.
With tears welling up, she simply nodded her head “yes”. She then called her son over to have him thank me but as she turned to call him, I made my way out the door. My eyes too were full of tears.
I didn’t tell the girls everything. I didn’t tell them how I was feeling. I wasn’t sure myself.
Frustrated … sick and tired. Tired of seeing people in need. Sick of seeing people struggle…. doing without. No, they’re not holding signs and yes … it was only a book but I see them. I see them … their struggles …every day … especially at work.
Am I (are we as firefighters / first responders) the only one who notice?
I wasn’t the only other person at that book fair. Why is it always me who spots these things happening? Why do I always feel like I have a duty to act? It’s not the first time I’ve been in a situation like this. Use the link below to read about what happened while I was visiting NYC with my wife…
Shane Parkins made a comment on the post linked above. It was a smart ass comment and an attempt to “take a shot” at me. He’s entitled to his opinion and I really couldn’t care less about what he thinks about me or what I do. He did however strike a nerve.
He said “You’ve always been good at seeing value in people. Don’t ever lose that.”
REALLY? Like I took something from these people rather than giving?
Well, the book fair encounter got me thinking about NYC which got me thinking about the comment. Obviously, the word “VALUE” has since occupied my thoughts.
Was there “value” in that book or in that 2 piece chicken dinner? I think so but I also think it was more than any monetary value. Maybe the “value” is in giving someone a break …. a helping hand … a chance? Again … not measured in dollars. Where is the most “value”? In the giving or receiving? Does it really even matter?
I’ve found myself contemplating my “value”…. wondering if I have any and what it may be. Is my “value” as a husband, father, grandfather, son or brother? I haven’t been too good at any of those roles.
Maybe my “value” can be found in being a firefighter? In being on the job and willing to help others … to die if need be for complete strangers. IS there “value” in what we do? Who’s and how much? How do you measure it?
After being skipped for promotion time and time again, going years without a raise etc … I can tell you that I don’t feel very “valuable” to my Department.
How about you? Are we (as firefighters) only “valued” when needed? I’d say the firefighters in LA were pretty valuable to their City yesterday but how about the day before?
I’ll tell you what I value ….. waking up. I value the chance to get up every morning and try again. The chance to try to get it right this time … to Do The Right Thing.
Stay SAFE and in House!