I trust you’ve heard the expression putting out fires? It is generally uttered by a busy executive to sum up his or her job of dealing with situations that flare up during their day. Trust me, this putting out fires is not only for busy executives!
Over the past two weeks I have worn my firefighter’s hat more often than not! Ironically (knock on wood), the fires I have been helping extinguish have not been my own. I am a firefighter (not in the typical sense) by nature, I am always ready to pick up my hose and take aim at whatever fire is brought to my attention: financial strains, relationship issues, job stresses, family dynamic problems, and more.
I have been at this firefighting business a long time. In my early days, I made rookie mistakes, like running into the heart of the flames to try to pull another out. Sometimes I took all the risk while the victim was content to remain a victim. I then learned to stay back and blast at the flame. Without all the necessary information at hand, my aim wasn’t steady and there were times my help did nothing more than fan the flames. In time, I have become a much more efficient firefighter!
Now when I am summoned to another’s fire, I respond. However, I respond with a watch and assess attitude. Instead of shooting my water cannon full blast at flickering flames, I wait to see if my help is truly needed, or if I have been summoned simply to provide a sense of security to the one facing the fire.
While I am always on hand to guide someone safely out of the flames, to help douse the embers, or to pick through the rubble after the fire, I no longer put myself in harm’s way. One person in the flames is enough!
This past week, both my children faced fires–one a vehicle break-in and the other a vehicle accident–and it took all my training to override my motherly instincts to rush their fires to pull them to safety. Instead, I kept calm, trusted they knew what they had been taught, and both have come out of their fires safely. Albeit a little singed, but sometimes life does that to us all.
As I reviewed the fires I had been summoned to these past weeks, I realize two important things. The first is that my friends and family are all moving up the ranks and becoming adept firefighters in their own lives! What used to appear as fear-inducing infernos are now manageable with insight and good aim.
The second thing I have learned is when someone asks my help battling a fire, they’re generally looking for a Chief, not someone to jump into the heat of the flame with them. The Chief best serves from the sidelines. By expressing trust in the firefighter’s abilities, keeping an eye on the progress, and offering small corrections when necessary, the Chief aids, but also stays clear of the flames. The Chief’s most important duty is to serve as a reminder: You’re not battling your fires alone; someone else has your back.
As I type this, we are getting a driving rain. Perhaps it is a fortuitous sign that we can all enjoy a break from our fires for a bit. I will shed my firefighter’s gear for now, but it is always at the ready.
Have a wonderful fire-free day!