This is not a hobby.

7 mins read

Some of the messages we’re given through the course of our recruit training are echoed often. Complacency kills. Don’t get lazy. Go train. Similarly, and on multiple occasions through my brief exposure to the fire service, I’ve had another idea vetted by more than one person of influence – your involvement in a volunteer fire department is sort of like a Lion’s Club membership. After taking this in, I’ve got a few things to say.

I’m the type of person that leads a hobby-rich lifestyle. Between engagements in producing art, writing and fitness, I’ve managed to amass a good stack of receipts from Michael’s and Amazon. I’ve bumped between being a basement DJ and a backyard chicken-farmer. I’ve had the hooks of Jiu-Jitsu sunk deep into my guts and put hours into Fallout 3 that I’ll never get back. I guess the big part that strikes me about the mindset above is a simple, irrefutable fact – you can’t get killed growing tomatoes.

Well, I guess it’s not so much that you can’t get killed growing tomatoes. After all, it’s the age of the infinite internet and I’m sure somewhere, somehow, somebody must have lost life due to errant vegetable curation. The point stands, though. As compared to the bins of hobbies past and the bent up boxes that dot my garage with ‘Warhammer’ scrawled along their sides, putting on a helmet and responding to the scene of a real emergency doesn’t really compare well.

You can see where I’m going with this, right?

The reason this post is making the front page for our launch is because fundamentally, I believe there’s been a shift in our mindset. Not just in the first responder community, either. I’ve seen it in the way topics are presented on the news. I’ve seen it in the way we discuss things – on the internet and in meatspace. I’ve seen it, too, in the way I regard the changes we’ve lived through in the last two years.

We’re softer than we aught to be. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, either. I mean it physically and philosophically. Where I feel like we were able to endure more. Or, maybe it’s that we had more gas in the tank to keep going. Either way. It’s something I can feel in conversations and the day-to-day as we navigate COVID and the urgent changes it so constantly forces us to adapt to.

So much so that the conversation surrounding this (in and of itself) might be seen as one of those minor pushes that agitates somebody to be offended. Imagine that, outside of the box we’re living in that suggests we need not be so concerned with taking on responsibility so long as we can be comfortable – that a conversation that wishes for it’s participants to be stronger, smarter or better could be seen as a net negative.

Credit: https://www.instagram.com/livingbyyyz/
NOT A HOBBY

As I wrote this post, I came back to this part in the text to offer a better explanation of what I mean. It’s easy to suggest that something is happening and even easier with this fancy screen that can touch every corner of the globe.

I recently heard a topic on our local AM talk-radio station regarding the efforts being made to keep up with COVID stuff from a band of lab professionals. They made reference to a particular phrase; that the work required was ‘not humanly possible‘. Now, before I’m drawn to the firing line for suggesting that lab professionals are weak, please let me make my argument clear.

In our recent history, there have been challenges set and met by people just like us. When all else had failed, we backed into a corner and bore our teeth at the thing, skulking at the perimeter of the dark.

What happened to that mindset?

Put up against our great-grandparents, I just can’t help but believe that generation of beach-stormers would come up with something in the place of ‘not humanly possible’ where a significant challenge was stacked against them.

I don’t have a lot of experience to draw from where emergency response is concerned as compared to my peers. For those firefighters that have been on the job for 20 years and more, I’m as green as they come. I’ve been around long enough to have seen a few perspective-changing events, though, and I figure that’s where real experience is born. The same thoughts that usher in the damage to our resiliency must have trickled into the first responder community.

Must have, because at the end of the day, our first responders are just people – for better or worse affected in the same way as everybody else. It must be true, then, that our community could be actively targeted by the culture that allows us to be lesser than – that allows the loser a participation medal. In launching this platform, I would task the reader to take a bold stance toward asking for more.

Ask for more from yourself. Ask for more from your crew. Ask for more from your leadership.

Accept the weight when it is added to your bar to bear.

Donning the responsibility of responding to the call – the call made to you on behalf of those clinched by crisis is something that should be regarded as one of the most ambitious things a person can do. Hardly the territory of games and crafts. This is not a hobby – and that’s okay to say.

Bill Dungey is a volunteer firefighter in Ontario, Canada. He is focused on fitness, mindset development and finding training opportunities to help the fire service make things better.

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